Making the Grades
Adam Sandler hauls out his tried and true formula for his latest Happy Madison Production Blended. He even reunites with Drew Barrymore, his co-star from The Wedding Singer and 50 First Dates. If Sandler is lucky, he’ll bring home bucket loads of cash from ticket sales and redeem himself after the flop That’s My Boy in which he also took on the role of a father figure.
In Blended, Sandler plays Jim, a single dad with three daughters, Hillary (Bella Thorne), Lou (Alyvia Alyn Lind) and Espn (Emma Fuhrmann). Yes, number three is named after the sports channel. He buys the girls’ clothes at Dick’s Sporting Goods where he is a store manager and takes them to his barber for their haircuts. He’s trying to be the best dad he can, but there are some things he just hasn’t figured out—like which feminine hygiene products to buy for his oldest daughter.
Barrymore plays Lauren, a single mom with two boys. Her oldest, Brendan (Braxton Beckham), is a preteen with raging hormones who pins a picture of his babysitter’s head onto a centerfold from a men’s magazine and makes creepy comments about how hot his mom is. Her youngest, Jake (Zak Henri), throws tantrums on the ball diamond, runs through the house with a burning t-shirt on a pole and is completely incapable of controlling himself.
When Lauren and Jim meet on a blind date at a Hooters restaurant we know where this relationship will eventually end up despite their bad beginning. But the disastrous first encounter means we have to cover a lot of ground before love blossoms between these two socially uncomfortable adults.
Luckily for them—and their children—the opportunity to get to know each other comes in the form of a vacation in Africa at a resort hosting a weeklong event for blended families. The scheduled activities include a safari, sports, spa treatments and a couple’s massage. While the rubdown avoids the kind of sexual depictions you might expect, the rest of the film is well oiled with crude sexual comments and crass jokes involving everything from self-pleasuring to animals engaged in sex. The film also has a running joke about a musical group at the hotel (headed up by a pec-popping Terry Crews) that interjects themselves on the screen at the most predictable times with inane song lyrics and gyrating groin movements.
Sandler’s reputation for lowbrow humor remains intact in this production, although he stays just a step above the juvenile antics and locker room jokes in Grown Ups and Grown Ups 2. He is the hero as usual—in this case a father trying to remain strong despite the loss of his wife and his children’s mother. And there is nothing like the word cancer to bring seriousness to a screenplay. The movie also addresses an issue more and more people are facing, that of blending families. But while the script is bold enough to make assertions like two parents are better than one, girls need moms, boys need dads, and being boringly reliable as a parent is good, it isn’t gutsy enough to leave out the glut of crude jokes and make this a family film the entire family could attend.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Blended.
How does the death of Jim’s wife make him a more sympathetic hero?
Lauren’s former spouse takes their son out for ice cream despite her asking him to help the boy to avoid consuming sugar. Why does this dad choose to be the fun parent instead of the responsible one? What lessons does this teach a child in a divorced family? Is it difficult for one parent to always have to be heavy on discipline while the other does light, entertaining activities with the children?
What does Lauren offer to Jim’s daughters and Jim to Lauren’s sons that they can’t provide for their own children? Why is Lauren’s friend Jen so hesitant to date a man who has children? What complications do children bring to a new relationship? What sacrifices do adults need to make for the sake of the children?
What does Jim mean when he says a parent needs to be boringly reliable when it comes to their children? Do Jim and Lauren portray this commitment in their parenting roles?