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Genre Family

There's a place for throwaway feel good entertainment... the kind that balances precariously between the waste paper basket and a slam dunk. Adam Sandler and South Africa's very own Leon Schuster have built their careers around this lightweight sort of entertainment. We're momentarily exposed to something that elicits a smile, a laugh, wonderment, warmth or even a tear.

These base human moments justify the product and help smooth over a myriad of inadequacies. We reserve the "it is what it is" comment, which helps explain their mass popularity, despite their intrinsic flaws. Fun is infectious and seeing other people enjoying themselves wholeheartedly is a vicarious thrill in itself.

Adam Sandler may be accused of simply turning vacations into movies, but this is the sort of mindless escapism that people thrive on in this post-recession age. In his latest venture, Blended, in many ways an unofficial sequel to Just Go with It, he gets to do Africa or an international version of it. As always, the comedian turned actor goes for the widest demographic by making it a family film about family.

As a veritable everyman and slice of Adam Sandler, he falls into his well-worn groove as a middle class sports store manager. Together with his Wedding Singer on-screen sweetheart, Drew Barrymore, now a closet space consultant, the two generate more of the same predictable romance. The fresh spin on this set up is the African setting and their children, who accompany and share a coincidental getaway.

Sandler trades on Disney schmaltz and there's plenty of sweet-to-sappy moments to savour. What differentiates Sandler from Disney, and what probably made Bedtime Stories a shaky marriage is that he doesn't mind a bit of gross out comedy. Thankfully, Blended steers clear of the traditional fart jokes and while not entirely innocent makes an effort to keep things clean.

Unfortunately for Blended, the comedy is a bit hit-and-miss. We're amused by the spirited antics more than rolling in the aisles. Without the genuine belly laughs, Sandler's movie falls back on the heartwarming interplay between it's mix of over-the-top oddball characters.

Barrymore's boys are lovingly ripped off from War at Home and Modern Family. Their looks, mannerisms and unique eccentricities seem like they were direct references for the actors, and it works. Then, Sandler's three girls are all experiencing some sort of ugly duckling syndrome, which becomes a running joke as they try to overcome their tomboyish looks and escape from under the wing of Mr. Mom.

The African experience is just a skin for a family comedy that could have been shot at just about any holiday destination. An over-the-top Terry Crews leads a rather amusing choir that echoes the folk music gimmick from Something About Mary by ambushing the story whenever a scene needs a little extra silliness. It's a theme park version of Africa as the families congregate at The Lost City and embark on checking off the stereotypical tourist attractions.

It's loads of fun, even if it's spun in a naive fashion, and we simply enjoy the jaunt from a safe distance. Blended is a case of just going with it and while not nearly as funny as some of his previous comedies, is a step up from the sort of trashy and off-colour movies he's spawned more recently. It's mostly redeemed by Sandler and Barrymore's undeniable chemistry and the story's sincere attempt to be sweet-natured.

Blended is enjoyable in the moment, functions as mindless throwaway fun and is never offensively bland. Sandler plays happy families on holiday and despite the missed opportunities, it just works. Fans of Just Go with It will get their fix and others will just have to paw it off with an "it is what it is".

The bottom line: Fun

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