This week’s major home video releases are anchored by a romantic comedy that reunites Drew Barrymore and Adam Sandler.
2 stars (out of four)
Rated PG-13 for crude and sexual content, and language
Available on: Blu-ray, DVD, digital download and on demand
When Hollywood filmmakers find a successful formula, they can be counted on to revisit it, and that assured us of another film teaming Adam Sandler with Drew Barrymore. Unfortunately, “Blended” isn’t nearly as charming as their earlier hits, “The Wedding Singer” (1998) and “50 First Dates” (2004).
In “Blended,” Barrymore plays Lauren Reynolds, a working mother recovering from a bad marriage. Sandler plays Jim Friedman, a single dad who is yet to recover from the death of his wife. When friends suggest that they hook up, they share a horrid blind date. Despite this disaster, fate pushes them together, and through a convoluted set of circumstances, they end up sharing an African vacation with kids in tow.
Nothing like this would happen in real life, and screenwriters Ivan Menchell and Clare Sera don’t even attempt to make the setup believable. This is a problem that director Frank Coraci addresses by sprinkling the film with additional oddities, like an African choir that punctuates key plot points with song. These bits are hit and miss and only rarely does Coraci – who also worked with Sandler and Barrymore on “The Wedding Singer” – string several solid gags together.
There’s no denying that Barrymore and Sandler are talented, and the two stars do their best to keep “Blended” moving, but they have numerous obstacles to overcome. To start, they are forced to fight their way through a long-winded first act that does little more than establish the parameters of their characters’ families. Jim has three daughters who are in desperate need of a feminine touch, and Lauren is raising two boys who could use a positive, male role model. Savvy filmgoers will see right away where the plotting is headed.
Lauren and Jim are a movie couple destined to transition from loathing to love, and the screenplay struggles to make this happen. Since most moviegoers will have the plot worked out in the first 30 minutes, it’s up to Coraci, Sandler and Barrymore to make the journey fun, but they only succeed in minor ways.
Coraci uses music wisely and draws some laughs with quirky editing techniques that are more inventive than anything else in the picture. Barrymore and Sandler have chemistry, and they use that to good effect when the two families finally reach Africa. Because of this, the movie’s second and third acts are better than the first.
“Blended” could have been worse, but the same could be said of most bad films. The good moments in “Blended” don’t outweigh the problems in the lackluster script, and that’s disappointing because Barrymore and Sandler are a nice team. They will do well to continue working together, but they should be more careful when choosing the projects.
Blu-ray and DVD extras include deleted scenes and a collection of behind-the-scenes shorts.
ALSO OUT THIS WEEK
“Legends of Oz – Dorothy’s Return”: This computer-animated film is loosely based on “Dorothy of Oz,” a novel by Roger Stanton Baum, grandson of L. Frank Baum. It is set after the events in “The Wizard of Oz,” and it sees Dorothy returning to the magical land to help her friends confront a new and frightening evil.
“The Normal Heart”: HBO film based on Larry Kramer’s play about the rise of the AIDS epidemic in New York City during the 1980s. Kramer wrote the screenplay, adapting his own work, and Ryan Murphy (“Glee,” “American Horror Story”) served as director. The impressive cast includes Mark Ruffalo, Taylor Kitsch, Jim Parsons and Julia Roberts.
“Deadbeat” – Season One: First 10 episodes of the comedy distributed exclusively by the Hulu video-streaming service. Tyler Labine plays a hapless medium trying to cash in on his supernatural talents. Brandon T. Jackson, Cat Deeley and Lucy DeVito also star.
“The Walking Dead” – The Complete Fourth Season: “The Walking Dead” has been a huge hit for AMC, and viewership continues to increase. The fifth season will bow in October, but fans who can’t wait that long for a zombie fix can dig into the 16 episodes on this set.
“Sons of Anarchy” – Season Six: The seventh and final season of this FX drama begins airing in early September. That gives fans just a few days to revisit the 13 episodes presented here. The focus, for those who don’t already know, is on an outlaw motorcycle club located in central California.
“Welcome Back, Kotter” – The Complete Series: The TV sitcom “Welcome Back, Kotter” had terrific ratings for two of its four seasons in the 1970s, and it is still remembered as the launching point for John Travolta’s career. The actor plays one of several inner-city high school students who is befriended by a teacher (Gabe Kaplan) who grew up in the same neighborhood. This impressive 16-DVD set, released by Shout Factory, includes all 95 episodes of the show, a behind-the-scenes featurette and original screen tests from some of the actors.
“All That Jazz”: Criterion Collection restoration of director Bob Fosse’s semi-autobiographical, 1979 movie about a director who is trying mount a Broadway musical while simultaneously editing a Hollywood film. Roy Scheider and Jessica Lange star.
“Vengeance is Mine”: Freshly restored transfer of Japanese director Shōhei Imamura’s 1979 drama about real-life conman and serial killer Akira Nishiguchi. The movie won best picture at the 1979 Japanese Academy Awards. Presented in Japanese with English subtitles.
“Criminal Minds” – Season 9: This long-running CBS drama focuses on FBI agents who solve crimes by profiling those who committed them. Season 10 is slated to begin Oct. 1, giving viewers just a few days to catch up with the 24 episodes on this release.
“Elementary” – The Second Season: All 24 episodes from the second season of CBS’s modernized look at Sherlock Holmes. Jonny Lee Miller stars as Sherlock, and Lucy Liu plays Dr. Joan Watson.
“Haven” – The Complete Fourth Season: A fresh collection of episodes from the Syfy series about an FBI agent (Emily Rose) who helps the small town of Haven, Maine, deal with supernatural phenomena.
“Jackpot”: Scandinavian thriller about a group of men who turn on one another after winning a huge sum in a soccer betting pool. Co-written and directed by Magnus Martens. Presented in Norwegian and Swedish with English subtitles.
“Age of Uprising – The Legend of Michael Kohlhaas”: Foreign film celebrating the exploits of real-life vigilante Hans Kohlhase. The movie is set in the 16th century, and as the film tells it, Kohlhaas (Mads Mikkelsen) created a vigilante army after his property was wrongfully taken. Directed by Arnaud des Pallières. Presented in French with English subtitles.
“The Stream”: Coming-of-age story about several “Star Wars”-obsessed youth who make a journey to the town mall to replace a broken Wiffle bat. Mario Lopez, Kelly Rutherford, Christopher Gorham and Rainn Wilson star. Directed by Estlin Feigley.
– Forrest Hartman is an independent film critic whose byline has appeared in some of the nation’s largest publications. E-mail him at email@example.com.