No blending. None whatsover.
No matter the level of endless pep Blended tries to throw on screen – from Terry Crews’ hip shaking to bouncy African drum rhythms – none of it feel cathartic to a film utterly dismantled by emotional baggage. Stories of wives who passed from cancer, busted relationships, and sorrowful kids are not particularly funny. Blended can try and soften this material with ostrich fights, but there isn’t much to hold onto anyway.
As with the rut of Adam Sandler comedies in recent years, Blended is disconnected. Scenes comes and go without a sense of progression, leveling the jokes as Sandler and Barrymore pair to make what is now their own trilogy of co-starring flicks.
Blended tries, a little anyway. It will end as expected, pick up on tampon gags, and fumble around with repeated flurries of African locale footage. Beautiful, if pointless. Somewhere in there is the most embarrassing depiction of gender roles this century: Barrymore plays a softened closet organizer (?) and Sandler bumps chests with Shaq as the head of a sporting goods store – a prominent one too. Product placement is nothing less than wholly shameful.
Script work putzes around in a build up to a tremendous contrivance, sending two incompatible singles to Africa because someone else canceled the vacation. That works? Somehow? It takes over a half hour of agonizing slumming around Georgia to set up this limited premise which sends the two incompatible-yet-totally-compatible persons into the Southern edge of the country.
Africa feels included for two reasons: One, the wildlife allows for childish animal antics, and two, endless repetitious insets of local side characters doing goofy things because Blended has no material for its stars.
Maybe that isn’t entirely fair. A handful of gags do work under the traditional banner of Sandler’s work. They remain safe and comfortable in terms of his style. But, Sandler’s identifiable cornball sex antics are at complete odds with half of the film’s content and context. They’re not even appropriate to be beside one another, yet Blended is insistent on making them collide.
Historians can roughhouse with each other to discuss whether Wedding Singer or 50 First Dates is the powerhouse of the Sandler/Barrymore romantic pairing. It’s certainly not this one. Where those two films leveraged and balanced any competing elements, Blended’s ironic titling seems dizzied as to how best mesh each side. Those few laughs (especially Terry Crews hamming it up and some zingers from Kevin Nealon) when not desperately faking ostrich rides are hardly worth the extended two hour running time. [xrr rating=2/5 label=Movie]
Captured on the Arri Alexa, Blended’s digital cinematography matches the content. It’s boring. Images are bland, and an attempt to puff up the African vacation with a sudden jolt of warmed up color correction doesn’t act as a savior. Location footage is often left wanting, with fidelity lacking the striking qualities available to this format.
In close, there’s nothing. Some flat blooming brushes across some of the actor’s faces, giving them a vintage application without the captivating allure. Here it only seems out of place as the technique sours fine detail. While general sharpness may appear high, image density is disappointing. Facial fidelity and other minutiae are completely ignored.
Unremarkable black levels exist alongside a contrast warped by the levels of orange in the images, although this is mostly removed in the book-end scenes shot in Georgia. Flesh tones there are actually spectacular in their accuracy which is refreshing.
Blended isn’t bothered by any pesky signs of noise or aliasing. Images carry a firm clarity which remains their highlight. Shame then that focus on precision work amounts to so little success, if no real wrong doing. Warner’s encoding work is fine too. [xrr rating=4/5 label=Video]
Africa: A land of scenic beauty, music, and wildlife. Oh, and little surround work. Blended seems locked into the fronts for this DTS-HD mix, having neither the energy or work ethic to branch out into those rear channels. Outside of a few musical numbers which are appreciably vibrant with their drums or Terry Crews vocals, any spread is minimal. Action barely resonates.
For the most part, mixing work is fine for what is essential. Dynamic range is under control and dialog proves clean. For all of the attempts to sell Africa visually over those scenes in Georgia, their audio differentiation is nill. [xrr rating=3/5 label=Audio]
Blended carries ten featurettes, all no more than two minutes long (some just over a minute) and they’re all individually laid out in the menu. It’s an obnoxious way to deliver content about location shooting, working with animals, safari walking, Terry Crews, dressing up, and others. A few of the animal ones are worth a watch, mostly to see Sandler almost get mauled by a cheetah, but they’re otherwise duds. A gag reel is a blast though and some deleted scenes were cut for a reason. [xrr rating=2/5 label=Extras]
Click on the images below for full resolution screen captures taken directly from the Blu-ray. Images have not been altered in any way during the process.