Lauren Reynolds' first date since getting divorced from her no-good louse of a cheating husband isn't going well. It's so bad, in fact, it could be made into a lame joke: You know your blind date is bad when …
He takes you to Hooters for dinner.
He drinks your beer when you go to the ladies' room.
He's more interested in watching wood chopping on TV than he is in looking at you.
Indeed, Jim isn't anything like Lauren thought he would be. He's certainly not someone she wants to see again. And the fact that he's a single parent of three girls after losing his wife to cancer isn't enough of a sob story to change her mind.
Jim and Lauren do see each other again, of course. They're both at the same grocery store, trying to solve problems they have little experience with. He's trying to figure out what feminine hygiene products his 15-year-old daughter, Hilary, needs. She's flipping through "men's" magazines looking for a sexy picture she saw under her son's bed.
Of course Lauren knows exactly what hygiene stuff Jim's daughter needs. And Jim knows exactly which magazine Lauren is looking for. And when their credit cards get mixed up, Jim heads to her house to rectify the switcheroo.
When he arrives, Lauren's commiserating with her best friend and co-worker, Jen, who's decided she needs to break off a relationship with a rich older man named Dick because he's got five kids and wants her to be "part of the team." So much so that he's purchased a lavish vacation at a South African resort to introduce her to his family.
Jen's cold feet aren't thawed much by the thought of traveling to Africa.
But Lauren has begun envisioning the vacation of a lifetime.
And Jim has too.
Both start angling for those reserved slots at the resort, Lauren through Jen, and Jim by way of his job. (He just so happens to work for Dick.) Neither realizes the other is interested. Until they both arrive in South Africa, of course, where they discover they'll have to share their opulent, enormous suite—creating a spontaneously blended, 21st-century Brady Bunch.
Jim and Lauren still don't like each other. But slowly each realizes that the other offers their kids something all five children deeply need and long for: a father and a mother.
Jim and Lauren are far from perfect parents. She's a risk-averse control freak who's completely flummoxed by her two boys' (Brendan and Tyler) wild ways. He's a sports nut determined to fashion his three girls (Hilary, Espn and Lou) into super-athletes whether they like sports or not.
But both of these adults are utterly devoted to their children. Neither Lauren nor Jim earn much money, but what they lack in financial resources, they strive to make up for with love and affection. And so it's their shared commitment to parenthood that draws them together. Lauren says a parent should be 100% focused on meeting a child's needs (a statistic she later amends to 99%). Jim adds, "You gotta be there for your kids. It should be boring how reliable your parents are."
As the families mingle, the boys naturally gravitate toward Jim and his manly, sports-minded interests, while the girls latch onto Lauren's more, well, girly approach. Jim keeps his cool when defusing Brendan's anger toward him, telling the adolescent, "being a man" means "dealing with what's in front of you," not whining and complaining about your circumstances. Lauren sings one of Jim's daughters to sleep with the same song his wife used to sing and takes Hilary to the resort's salon.
In time, kids from each family practically beg to have the other "parent" become permanent, driving home how desirable it is for children to have both a father and a mother who love them and who love each other. (Lauren's ex, Mark, serves as a dramatic foil to show what bad, self-absorbed parenting looks like as he repeatedly breaks promises to the kids.)
The movie also tenderly addresses the pain of losing a parent. Espn, for example, has "talks" with her deceased mom (which Jim and Lauren sweetly respect). And a poignant conversation revolves around Jim's answer to Lou's question, "Daddy, what do you miss about mommy?" Cue the waterworks. Indeed, the biggest thing holding Jim back from loving Lauren is his sense that it would be inappropriate (never minding that his wife gave him "permission" before she died). Eventually, of course, he breaks free of those self-imposed bonds.
Lou repeatedly (and humorously) growls out demonic-sounding commands like, "In the name of Lucifer, let us sleep." Lauren responds in kind. Jim jokes about finding an exorcist. When Lauren first hears Espn's name, she asks, "Is it biblical?" She prays for Tyler during a baseball game.
Lauren finds a magazine under Brendan's bed that features a centerfold photo of a woman in bra and panties. Over the woman's face is pasted his adolescent babysitter's head. Mom tears it up … then feels guilty and goes to the store to buy another one. Jim says looking at such pictures is a "normal part of growing up," and he pokes fun at Brendan's masturbation habit. As noted, he proudly says he owns the same magazine himself.
A randy couple (Eddy and Ginger) at the resort is constantly kissing, and Brendan can't take his eyes off the woman's always-on-display cleavage and, in one scene, revealingly tight-fitting pants. Mom later finds that he's also been watching a porn channel on TV. We witness Brendan throw himself at his babysitter, joking about her giving him his bath and, later, trying to kiss her.
Hilary, meanwhile, is keen to attract boys—specifically Eddy's son, Jake. Even before the trip, though, she's shown putting silicon shoe inserts in her bra to pad it. Then Dad mortifies daughter by suggesting that her bra is throwing off her basketball game, saying (in front of Jake), "If it's the bra, just take it off. You don't need it anyway."
Jim's tampon-buying trip is fraught with sexual jokes, too, one or two of them kinda graphic. Lou (innocently) talks about "paginas." Breast jokes are made repeatedly, and "t-tty-twister" is said a couple of times. There are comments made about a boy getting turned on by his mom. Hilary says, "Boys assume I'm a lesbian … and not the hot kind." Jen repeatedly alludes to her sex life with Dick, whose name, by the way, is also used as a dirty-joke double entendre.
South African resort employees croon suggestive songs, often accompanied by hip thrusts. We hear the Boyz II Men song "I'll Make Love to You" and Katy Perry's "I Kissed a Girl," both linked to visuals that suggest teen lust for the former and lesbian attraction for the latter. Eddy grabs Ginger's (covered) breasts during a couples' massage class. We see Lauren's bra when her dress starts to slip. More visual and verbal references and/or gags revolve around copulating rhinos, crotch-grabbing, edible panties, "closet queens," dressing in drag and gay parents. Jim frequents Hooters (because his wife used to be a manager there).
Slapstick pratfalls include an elderly woman slamming into a tree on a four-wheeler. Lauren is forever whacking Tyler's head against walls and doors carrying him around while he's asleep. The lad throws an epic bat-swinging, base-kicking tantrum after striking out. He and Brendan light a T-shirt on fire (putting it out in the kitchen, then spraying their babysitter with the extinguisher too). An ostrich ride ends with Jim getting hurled into (and breaking) a water tank. Lauren plummets precipitously to earth when a parasailing venture goes awry. Playing basketball, Hilary elbows a boy out of her way, knocks him down, then steps on his crotch. Boxing, Brendan takes a cheap shot at Jim's gut. Lions eat a pig they've captured (off camera) as the two families watch, horrified.
Crude or Profane Language
Two s-words. An f-word coming out of Brendan's mouth is cut short by his mom, and other flirtations with the obscenity include "fugly," "friggen" and "MILF." God's name is misused about 30 times. We hear one or two uses each of "d‑‑n," "d‑‑mit," "p‑‑‑," "b‑‑ch," "t-tty" and "d-bag." "A‑‑" and "butthole" tally in at four or five times each. Lauren makes an obscene gesture.
Drug and Alcohol Content
Adults drink alcohol, and Lauren gets tipsy. References are made to Ritalin, Flomax and Cialis, as well as using "roofies" to get back at someone.
Other Negative Elements
Lauren and Jen try on the clothes of a rich woman whose closet they're organizing. (They get caught.) Jen steals a dress from a client, then gives it to Lauren. Two fathers at a baseball game mock Tyler's struggles at the plate; they, in turn, are put down even more meanly by Lauren and Jen. We hear about "pee," "poopy" and "juicy farts." Jim's urination is audible. Women's feet and lower legs underneath bathroom stall doors are visible.
Sometimes a movie works on your emotions in a way that you just can't remember how many nasty content issues it has. Or, if you do remember, you're tempted to minimize them.
The big-hearted, feel-good film Blended is like that. Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore's onscreen chemistry as Jim and Lauren is as strong as it was in their previous romcoms, The Wedding Singer and 50 First Dates. This time, though, family-affirming themes run deeper. Single parents Jim and Lauren have their flaws, but they love their kids deeply. They don't feel sorry for themselves, and they don't put their own desires above their children's interests. Pair that with strong messages about the importance of both mom and dad in raising boys and girls, and this wacky comedy, surprisingly, turns into one of the most pro-family movies I've seen in a while.
Poring over my lengthy movie notes while writing this review, however, I'm also painfully aware of the sexual and gross-out content that's here. Some of it is the stuff of awkward situational comedy, such as when Dad tries his best to help his daughter in the first phases of puberty. Other elements race further downhill, like Jim's dismissive attitudes toward Brendan's flirtations with pornography. (It's hardly the message caring, engaged fathers want to send to teen sons trying to navigate our hyper-sexualized culture. Just because many boys will encounter pornographic images while growing up doesn't mean the right response is to just have a good laugh about it.)
There aren't as many crude, sex-related gags here as you'd find in the most egregious PG-13 fare like, say, Scary Movie V or Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues. Still, it's challenging to read through the sexual content section above (much less sit through it in a movie theater) and reconcile such grimy giggles and guffaws with how genuinely family friendly and affirming the film is in other ways.
The exasperating result is a movie that gets so much right even as it insists on blending in so much of Adam Sandler trademark naughtiness.