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Blended: Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD UltraViolet Review

Blended (2014) movie poster Blended

Theatrical Release: May 23, 2014 / Running Time: 117 Minutes / Rating: PG-13

Director: Frank Coraci / Writers: Ivan Menchell, Clare Sera

Cast: Adam Sandler (Jim Friedman), Drew Barrymore (Lauren Reynolds), Kevin Nealon (Eddy), Terry Crews (Nickens), Wendi McLendon-Covey (Jen Palmer), Bella Thorne (Hilary), Joel McHale (Mark Reynolds), Abdoulaye NGom (Mfana), Jessica Lowe (Ginger), Braxton Beckham (Brendan Reynolds), Emma Fuhrmann (Espn), Alyvia Alyn Lind (Lou Friedman), Kyle Red Silverstein (Tyler Reynolds), Zak Henri (Jake), Shaquille O'Neal (Doug), Dan Patrick (Dick Theodopolis)

Buy Blended from Amazon.com: Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD UltraViolet DVD Instant Video

Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore first teamed up on The Wedding Singer. The 1980s-set 1998 romantic comedy caught the two lead actors on the rise. 22-year-old Barrymore was moving past her child star and wild teenager phases, beginning a new age of PG-13 comedies and romances.
Sandler, 31, was transitioning into mainstream attraction, adding to the growing fan base that had enjoyed his shtick on "Saturday Night Live", comedy CDs, and quotable feature film vehicles Billy Madison and Happy Gilmore. Made for $18 million, Wedding Singer grossed $80 M domestically to a strong second place Valentine's Day weekend opening behind Titanic, favorable word of mouth, and even some passable reviews.

Sandler and Barrymore reunited for 50 First Dates, which opened Valentine's Day weekend 2004. No one was surprised to find this Hawaiian amnesia romantic comedy atop the box office en route to formidable grosses of $121 M domestic and nearly $200 M worldwide. Such a performance had come to be expected from Sandler, by then one of the biggest movie stars around. Barrymore, a key factor in the success of Charlie's Angels and its sequel, was the actor's most popular leading lady to date.

In "Blended", the families of divorcee Lauren Reynolds (Drew Barrymore) and Jim Friedman (Adam Sandler) spend an unforgettable African vacation together.

Earlier this year, Blended paired the duo for a third film, this one envisioned as a sure formula for the commercial success that lately has been eluding each actor. It opened on Memorial Day weekend as counterprogramming to X-Men: Days of Future Past and other big summer season action fare, but even on a budget significantly scaled back from Sandler's usual standards, it fell short of expectations, opening in third place and ultimately finishing with $46 million and change domestically. While that represents Barrymore's top earner in five years, it was a humbling showing for Sandler, providing his third box office disappointment in four years.

One cannot mention those disappointments without some clarification. First of all, Sandler's movie star longevity is virtually unprecedented in comedy. From recent predecessors (Eddie Murphy, Bill Murray) to contemporaries (Jim Carrey, Mike Myers), no funnyman has sustained big audiences as long and consistently as Sandler has. From The Waterboy to Grown Ups 2, Sandler has taken top billing in fourteen films grossing $100 million or more in North America. That's more than any other actor has achieved in the same 15-year period, even such A-listers as Will Smith, Johnny Depp, Brad Pitt, Tom Hanks, and Tom Cruise.
Sandler has entered middle age as the most popular brand in live-action comedy, impervious to critical disapproval, changing tastes, and audience aging. It isn't possible to maintain that popularity indefinitely, but by now Sandler has surely exceeded even the most optimistic expiration date foreseen at the start of his movie career.

It's possible, but not especially accurate, to consider Blended the first commercial setback experienced by Sandler's signature act since 2000's Little Nicky. After all, every other disappointment since then could be attributed to Sandler messing with the proven formula, whether it's working with accomplished directors on more dramatic fare (like Funny People, Punch-Drunk Love, and Spanglish), exploring a new medium (the animated Eight Crazy Nights), or testing his appeal with a rating other than PG-13 (from the PG Jack and Jill to the R-rated That's My Boy). Blended can't use any of those excuses. With a prime (albeit competitive release date), major studio backing, a proven leading lady, a frequent collaborator in the director's chair (Click and Wedding Singer's Frank Coraci), the usual PG-13 rating, and a suitable 3,500-theater count, this film was absolutely expected to add to Sandler's tradition of nine-figure domestic grosses. That it didn't is the most concrete evidence to date that the comedian's hold on North America's moviegoing public may be starting to loosen.

Lauren (Drew Barrymore) and Jim (Adam Sandler) awkwardly reunite in a drug store where they are buying pornography and tampons, respectively. Playing a man who has remarried someone less than half his age (Jessica Lowe), Kevin Nealon is one of the few friends of Adam Sandler to turn up in "Blended."

In his first film made outside of Columbia Pictures since 2009, Sandler plays Jim Friedman, a manager of a Dick's Sporting Goods store. The film opens with Jim on a disastrous blind date with Lauren Reynolds (Barrymore). At Hooters of all places, Jim is glued to a television, drinks Lauren's beer when she's in the bathroom, and barely makes eye contact with her. The two are not so different, however. Each is back to dating after about twenty years, having recently had their college-started marriages ended by death (him) and divorce (her). Jim and Lauren also have their hands full with kids of the opposite sex.

After 30 minutes of chance re-encounters, convenient mix-ups, and exposition, the premise of the film is finally set forth. Dick Theodopolis, the owner of Dick's Sporting Goods and beau of Lauren's best friend Jen (Wendy McLendon-Covey), has paid for a huge family vacation to Africa. After he and Jen break up, the mostly unseen Dick agrees to pass the non-refundable trip on to both Jim and Lauren. The widower and his three tomboy daughters are surprised to see closet reorganizer Jen and her two hormonal sons laying claim to the same vacation. Turns out, the excursion is specifically tailored to blended families, the "Familymoon" of the film's working title. Jim, Lauren, and their five children have to share an immense honeymoon suite. They're also scheduled by this swanky resort to share activities from a safari to a couples massage.

We all know where this is going, as Jim and Lauren grow less disgusted with one another with each passing day. They also come to bond with each other's children; Lauren treats his oldest daughter, the 15-year-old Hilary (Bella Thorne) to hair extensions, and Jim teaches her sons how to play baseball (with local cricket equipment).

Nickens (Terry Crews) and his enthusiastic African choir lend songs to suit several scenes. Joel McHale plays Mark Reynolds, Lauren's deadbeat ex-husband who stands in the way of Jim.

Since it is crystal-clear that Blended will not surprise, enjoyment must be derived from the journey and not the destination. As predictable and formulaic as it may be, the journey isn't all that bad. Having struck out on recent attempts at bold, obnoxious characterization (Jack and Jill, That's My Boy), Sandler returns to his appealing 21st century default mode as the good-natured everyman. Sarcastic yet sweet, Jim Friedman is basically interchangeable with Lenny Feder, Chuck Levine, and Danny Maccabee,
should you even remember those character names. You can accuse the actor of laziness, but he's got the numbers on his side and he's proven he can deliver a powerful performance when asked (something he presumably will be in his next two films: Jason Reitman's Men, Women & Children and Tom McCarthy's The Cobbler). A decade after their last collaboration, Sandler and Barrymore's chemistry is still terrific. They manage to sell material that would induce endless eye-rolling in other actors' hands.

Sandler's comedy has increasingly become family-oriented. That doesn't seem to be a calculated strategy as much as a reflection of his age and life. As usual, he finds a spot for his wife and kids to appear. The lot of them even perform a family song over the end credits. In truth, Sandler is a bit old to play the short-tempered bachelor, even if that lends more to sharper comedy than a single dad.

While promoting this film, Sandler confirmed to Jimmy Kimmel what we've long suspected: that his projects essentially represent all-expenses-paid vacations. Blended incorporates the South Africa resort as a flavorful setting, so there's at least more of a reason than, say, the cruise setting of Jack and Jill or the return to Hawaii for Just Go With It. Coupled with the tightened $40 million budget, the distant location seems to scale back Sandler's usual willingness to feature his friends in supporting roles (round trip African flights aren't cheap). Executive producer Allen Covert reprises his forgetful 50 First Dates character (one of a number of callbacks/homages to past Happy Madison farces) and Jonathan Loughran does his cross-eyed bit in a blink-and-miss appearance as an umpire. There are also appearances by Kevin Nealon, Shaquille O'Neal (evidently an official member of the troupe now), Terry Crews (as the leader of an enthusiastic choir that repeatedly pops up to comment on the action in song), Dan Patrick, Alexis Arquette (in a slight variation on his Wedding Singer role), Abdoulaye NGom (amusing as the human equivalent of The Lion King's Rafiki), and the brother of Steve Buscemi.

The rare Sandler vehicle whose screenplay isn't credited to him and/or his friends, Blended has an old-fashioned quality to it. The script by TV veteran Ivan Menchell ("The Nanny", "Phil of the Future", "Jonas") and novice Clare Sera fits the Happy Madison brand well, but one could easily imagine actors like Jimmy Stewart or Fred MacMurray making a movie like this in the early 1960s. Speaking of the '60s, this isn't far removed from "The Brady Bunch" in concept, though there's more than enough crudeness to ensure one of Sandler's usual PG-13 ratings.

Three months after helping to kick off the summer, Blended now looks to end it with this week's DVD and Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD UltraViolet releases from Warner Home Video.

Blended: Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD UltraViolet cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray & DVD Details

1.85:1 Widescreen (DVD Anamorphic)
BD: 5.1 DTS HD-MA (English), Dolby Digital 5.1 (French, Spanish, Portuguese)
DVD: Dolby Digital 5.1 (English, Spanish, French)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, French, Spanish; BD-only: Portuguese
Not Closed Captioned; Extras Subtitled
Release Date: August 26, 2014
Two single-sided, dual-layered discs (BD-50 & DVD-9)
Suggested Retail Price: $35.99
Blue Eco-Friendly Keepcase in Embossed Cardboard Slipcover
Also available as standalone DVD ($28.99 SRP) and on Amazon Instant Video

VIDEO and AUDIO

Though Blended may have only half the budget of Grown Ups 2, that remains more than enough to ensure that Adam Sandler's vacation looks great on Blu-ray. The 1.85:1 visuals are sharp, spotless, and colorful, compelling you to have your own picturesque African getaway. The 5.1 DTS-HD master audio also serves the film well, engaging the ears with African-flavored score, suitable needle drops, and the dialogue and sound effects that drive the comedy. Perhaps it's not demo material, but this may just be the best-looking and best-sounding of Sandler's signature comedies.

Adam Sandler gets to hang out with wildcats and other exotic animals. "Dick's Customer Service" illustrates where there's Shaq, there's fun.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

Though many in number, the Blu-ray's bonus features are short in stature. Many of them illustrate just how tough it is to be Adam Sandler!

The all-HD video extras begin with "Safari" (3:13), which shows Sandler and friends/castmates getting the African experience
with a guided tour of wild animals that they pepper with some wisecracks. "Animals" (3:34) depicts the cast getting to pet, kiss, and feed exotic animals from wildcats to elephants. "Parasailing" (2:19) offers a behind-the-scenes look at the filming of Drew Barrymore's big stunt sequence, which is all done safely on wires.

"Ostriches" (1:51) illustrates how the ostrich-riding sequence was achieved, with actors on the backs of blue-suited stuntmen later replaced with CGI. "Dick's Customer Service" (2:27) captures how much fun it is to have Shaq on a set, horsing around with kids, a basketball hoop, and insufficient lawn chairs. "HerliHoops: Basketball Actor" (1:06) shows off the athletic talent of longtime Sandler pal and collaborator Tim Herlihy, who appears briefly in the film's basketball scene.

Bella Thorne is relieved to get some make-up for about half of the film. Director Frank Coraci appears alongside a giggling Drew Barrymore in the Blended gag reel.

"Adam and Drew: Back Together Again" (2:21) observes the stars' reunion with jokey remarks and some behind-the-scenes footage. "Bella Thorne's Makeover" (1:58) treats us to a look at the teen actress' make-up application and thoughts on her character's tomboy persona. "Nickens" (1:39) celebrates Terry Crews' character, with the actor showing off his colorful costumes.

A gag reel (5:53) amuses with giggles and banter, while bleeping the profanity that flows from Drew Barrymore's mouth.

A deleted scenes reel (6:12) is divided into six clips, many of them alternatives or extensions to bits that made it into the film. They include children playing with adult props, cheetahs pursuing humans on four wheelers, Nickens leading a safari in a rendition of Michael Jackson's "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'", and another gag involving the frisky couple (played by Kevin Nealon and Jessica Lowe).

Finally, "Georgia" (2:40) documents the American portion of production, filmed on soundstages, a newly-built baseball field, and a stretch of forest standing in for Africa.

The DVD, the same one sold on its own,
includes "Adam and Drew: Back Together Again", "Bella Thorne's Makeover", the gag reel, the deleted scenes, and "Georgia."

The Blu-ray opens with an UltraViolet promo and a Dolphin Tale 2 trailer. The DVD opens with those, then proceeds to promote Island of Lemurs: Madagascar, Into the Storm, This Is Where I Leave You, and Godzilla.

Each format gets Warner's usual simple menu attaching score to the poster/cover design. The Blu-ray doesn't do bookmarks, but does resume unfinished playback like a DVD does.

An insert supplying your Digital HD UltraViolet code accompanies the two plainly-labeled discs inside a slipcovered eco-friendly blue keepcase.

Smiley romance ensues whenever Drew Barrymore and Adam Sandler get together.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Early on, you'll know exactly how Blended will play out, but that doesn't put much of a damper on this reasonably diverting romantic comedy whose appeal rests largely on the chemistry of its two stars. While I'm starting to doubt that another signature Adam Sandler movie will ever reach the heights of his early triumphs, this is the comedian's most enjoyable outing in years and pretty harmless at its worst.

Warner's Blu-ray combo pack serves up a flawless feature presentation plus a good supply of somewhat entertaining bonus features. I've never brought myself to get rid of an Adam Sandler movie and this won't become the first, but unless you're as devoted in your appreciation, this may be better served as a one-time viewing until it comes down in price.

Buy Blended from Amazon.com: Blu-ray Combo Pack / DVD / Instant Video

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Related Reviews:
Adam Sandler: Just Go With It Grown Ups Grown Ups 2 Jack and Jill Bedtime Stories That's My Boy Hotel Transylvania
Drew Barrymore: Going the Distance Everybody's Fine He's Just Not That Into You Whip It | Bella Thorne: Shake It Up
Directed by Frank Coraci: Zookeeper Here Comes the Boom Around the World in 80 Days | Written by Ivan Menchell: I Heart Jonas
New: Portlandia: Season Four Trust Me Fading Gigolo Ping Pong Summer Bears

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Reviewed August 28, 2014.



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