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Digesting the lowest rung of pop culture so you don't have to!
In 1998 and then again in 2004, Drew Barrymore and Adam Sandler teamed up for the hit films The Wedding Singer and 50 First Dates. Both winter releases made big money and drew positive notices for the chemistry of their leads. As an aside, The Wedding Singer is probably my favorite Sandler movie and while I don’t really like 50 First Dates, I can’t deny the charming leads or the legitimately good ending, even if the premise leaks a bit in the middle. After ten years apart, the two leads returned for Blended, released by Warner Bros. just last weekend. The film met with brutal critical reception and some of the worst box office returns of Adam Sandler’s lengthy and successful career. So, what exactly went wrong?
Adam Sandler’s career has sagged for the past few years. His last legitimate hit was 2010’s Grown Ups, a film that doesn’t exactly have a sterling reputation. Subsequent film work included the critically reviled Just Go With It (a minor hit, but it still grossed much less than numbers Sandler is used to), Jack and Jill (which grossed about half of what a mainstream Sandler comedy film usually does), and finally That’s My Boy, a filthier, R-rated comedy that paired Sandler with Andy Samberg and flopped immediately, grossing just 36 million domestically against a budget of 70 million dollars. Jack and Jill, Just Go With It, That’s My Boy, and Grown Ups 2 are all considered to be among the worst movies ever made, with the most vitriol directed towards Jack and Jill and That’s My Boy (my pick for the worst mainstream film of 2012).
Meanwhile, Barrymore has kept somewhat of a lower profile in recent years. Her last true hit was 2009’s ensemble romantic comedy He’s Just Not That Into You, a critically savaged film that grossed about 93 million dollars but is remembered by absolutely no one (I had to look it up to make sure I wasn’t confusing it with any number of the other “multiple people have relationship difficulties” romantic comedies that became probably in the last 5 or so years). Barrymore has also done work behind the camera, directing the critical hit but commercial disappointment Whip It, which starred Ellen Page. Barrymore’s other high profile work includes the low grossing Big Miracle and the decently remembered (but still not a financial success) Going the Distance, which paired her with now ex-boyfriend Justin Long.
When Blended was in development, it seemed Warner Bros. wasn’t quite sure what to do with it. The film was briefly retitled The Familymoon, which is about the worst proposed movie title since All You Need is Kill. Shot on a budget of about 40 million dollars, the film was released to overwhelmingly negative reviews, garnering a score of about 14% on aggregate site Rotten Tomatoes and a MetaCritic score of 31, indicating universally negative reviews. Like previous “Adam Sandler takes a vacation and gets paid 20 million dollars” productions, critics described Blended as schmaltzy and Sandler himself as bored. Sandler, on a late night talk show, even admitted he does these kinds of movies just to take an extended vacation and get paid for it. Audiences have been reacting with decreasing levels of interests, as Blended opening against juggernaut X-Men: Days of Future Past with only a scant 14 million dollars, a far cry from the much larger openings of previous Sandler/Barrymore collaborations.
Adam Sandler is rightfully a target of scorn and vitriol. He is a legitimately talented and charismatic comic performer who seems content to remain at the bottom of the barrel and collect his massive paychecks without putting one iota of effort into the movies he makes. This is the kind of guy who seems incredibly nice and fun to be around, and who makes movie stars out of his friends (Kevin James, David Spade, Rob Schneider, etc) but just can’t seem to care enough to make an interesting movie. What was the last funny thing he starred in? When was the last time anyone was excited about a new Adam Sandler movie coming out? What happened to the actor who gave so much comic energy to movies like Happy Gilmore, The Wedding Singer, and Big Daddy? It would be nice to see that guy in another movie once again. Barrymore would be a more than welcome presence in it as well. Try harder, Adam Sandler. Quit letting us down.