Blended is a strange, off-putting brew

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Starring Drew Barrymore and Adam Sandler. Rated PG. Now playing

What a strange, off-putting brew the latest high-concept, lowbrow rom-com from Drew Barrymore and Adam Sandler is.

Toothache-inducing sweetness (a little girl saving a chair at the dinner table for her dead mother) butts up against crude jokes (camel toes and tampon aisles), with random doses of slapstick thrown in.

And it’s all set in a gaudy resort in Sun City, South Africa, where black people grin, dance, and sing around every corner and ostrich-riding contests are part of the day’s scheduled events.

Complicating things even more, the resort is having a “blended-family-moon” week, where step parents are supposed to get to know their stepchildren. Except uptight neat freak Lauren (Barrymore) and unpolished Jim (Sandler) aren’t married; they actually loathe each other after a blind date gone wrong at Hooters.

Just how they end up in Sun City in the same luxury suite with their collective brood of five kids is another complicated story too far-fetched to get into here; it takes half the movie to get there—and another half hour before they even set out on safari. Who needs to see elephants and giraffes on the savannah when you can hit the resort’s wave pool, buffet table, and hoop courts?

It’s not all bad here. Barrymore and Sandler, three movies in after the superior The Wedding Singer and 50 First Dates, do have chemistry and still eek out a few laughs. And there is a lot of potential in a newly divorced woman trying to raise two boys, one of whom is just entering the centrefold stage, and a recent widower trying to raise three girls.

It’s endearingly funny yet horrifying that Jim takes his daughters to his own barber for the androgynous pageboy special, and tries to “beef up” his oldest for basketball season. But screenwriters Ivan Menchell and Clare Sara handle the theme clumsily a lot of the time, whether it’s in the Kotex aisle or at the porno mag rack.

Everything seems thrown against the exotic wall here. When things start to lag, the filmmakers feel they simply need to throw in a couple of humping rhinos or monkeys playing the violin.

You might have thought an African safari was your dream vacation, but all you’ll leave Blended remembering is rude Americans.

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