When commercials from Adam Sandler’s film Blended first began airing on national television, and promotional trailers appeared on social media, the usage of African themes led some to believe the film would be full of stereotypes and racially insensitive jokes. But these would be unfair and premature assumptions.
Blended, starring Adam Sandler (Jim) and Drew Barrymore (Lauren), is the story of two single parents who go out on a disastrous first date, and then run into one another while on vacation in Sun City, South Africa. The film also features former NBA superstar Shaquille O’Neal and comic actor Terry Crews. While O’Neal’s scenes are limited, he is effective with his own brand of silly comedy. While Crews is featured throughout the film as the lead singer of the African R&B singing ensemble Thathoo, played by South African group Junior Mambazo. Saturday Night Live alum Kevin Nealon appears in the film as Eddy.
In comedy, timing is everything. But character appearances throughout the film perfectly insert comic relief into scenes that may have otherwise been weighed down by the heaviness of some of the subject matter, such as Jim’s children dealing with the death of their mother.
Despite our preconceived notions, waiting for African stereotypes to kick in, Blended had us laughing. And a third of the way through the film, it becomes clear that Sandler not only reduced his reliance on shock comedy, but he took care to bring the funny without leaning on race jokes. Perhaps he learned his lesson from the debacle that was Grown Ups, where several characters of African descent were depicted as dimwitted and sex crazed. In Blended, Sandler successfully relies on witty writing and timing.
The result is a film full of heart and good natured comedy. In addition, Barrymore and Sandler’s chemistry was another delightful aspect as the duo interacted with one another effortlessly. While their children, portrayed by Emma Fuhrmann (Espn), Bella Thorne (Hilary), Alyvia Alyn Lind (Lou), Kyle Red Silverstein (Tyler), and Braxton Beckham (Brendan) are not merely cute props to help bolster the familial themes of the picture, but were believable representations of the common American child in all of their awkward, angst-ridden precociousness.
In the end, Blended hits on all of its points; humor, heart, chemistry and the prominent inclusion of actual Africans in significant roles. There weren’t many episodes of convulsive laughter, but there were many light-hearted chuckles to be had.
The Shadow League gives Blended a B-.