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dir Frank Coraci
scr Ivan Menchell, Clare Sera
prd Adam Sandler, Jack Giarraputo, Mike Karz
with Drew Barrymore, Adam Sandler, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Kevin Nealon, Bella Thorne, Braxton Beckham, Kyle Red Silverstein, Emma Fuhrmann, Alyvia Alyn Lind, Zak Henri, Joel McHale, Terry Crews
release US/UK 23.May.14
14/US Warner 1h57
When families collide: Barrymore, the kids and Sandler
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E
There's definitely something about Drew Barrymore: she has the ability to make Adam Sandler likeable, even in a terrible movie. Their other two films together (1998's The Wedding Singer and 2004's 50 First Dates) are much stronger than this slackly directed and simplistically scripted comedy, but they have genuine chemistry that makes Sandler sympathetic in ways he never is without her.
After a disastrous blind date, it's understandable that closet-organiser Lauren (Barrymore) and sports-shop clerk Jim (Sandler) never want to see each other again. Then Lauren's friend Jen (McLendon-Covey) cancels a holiday with Jim's boss and his five children, so Lauren and Jim take the dream trip to South Africa with their kids: Lauren's two boys (Beckham and Silverstein) and Jim's three girls (Thorne, Fuhrmann and Lind). Of course, the children leap on the chance to have a same-sex parent around, learning important lessons as Lauren and Jim try to avoid the inevitable.
Tonally, the film is all over the place, one moment indulging in some half-hearted zany slapstick and the next encouraging the audience to weep as Jim talks to his needy middle daughter about the death of her mother. The movie veers from silliness to sentimentality all the way through its overlong running time, shamelessly putting every cinematic trick to work to make these things funny or sweet or sad. But all so random and pointless that nothing ever grabs hold.
Thankfully, Barrymore and Sandler play it relatively straight, bringing just a hint of authenticity to their formulaic characters. And the kids are enjoyable as well, as each takes his or her own corny coming-of-age journey. This leaves the broad comedy to side players like the spikily manic McLendon-Covey or the goofy Nealon (as an amorous fellow tourist), and both shamelessly steal every scene they're in.
Yes, there are moments that generate a chuckle or a wave of unexpected emotion, but the best bits are off-handed, throwaway gags that feel improvised by the cast. Otherwise, there isn't an original thought in the script, and Coraci's direction is so lacklustre that it actually makes going on a safari look boring. Scenes play out without any pace, and there are frequent moments when the actors pause momentarily and look at each other, as if wondering how they ended up in this hot mess of a movie.
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© 2014 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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