Of course it’s formulaic. How could a romantic comedy not be formulaic?
In fact, it’s become so predictable that many studios don’t do them any more, and many actors feel that doing these roles limits their professional development because people “pigeonhole” them into these very circumscribed roles.
But this one for those of you who have longed for the good old days of rom-coms, when we had boy meets girl, boy and girl don’t get along, then find themselves developing an interest despite themselves, then after several twists and turns, finally, our happy couple finds romance. And we walk out of the theater holding hands with our spouses/dates/loved ones and chuckle over the foibles of other people trying to work things out, even though we all know it’s make-believe.
Well, the “blended” situation portrayed here is very real-life for lots of folks out there. There are all kinds of step-relationships, half-siblings, exes, newbies, and spouses with kids that are either “yours,” “mine,” or “ours.” And dating all over again, when either well-meaning friends set you up, or worse, you go online and deal with the inevitable deceptions and misinformation and not telling the whole story?
Jim (Adam Sandler) and Lauren (Drew Barrymore) start out on a blind date that is a complete disaster. Neither really wants to be there, and they are not at all impressed with each other. We get to hear their true opinions, of course, through her “gal” friend Jen (Wendi McLendon-Covey) and his “guy” friend, Doug (the mammoth Shaquille O’Neal), both co-workers. Both Jim and Lauren are single parents. Jim’s wife died, and left him to raise his three daughters, and though he’s a doting father, let’s just say his parenting lacks a sensitive feminine touch. Lauren is divorced, and has two sons who are “all boy,” meaning she has her hands full with the hyper-activity of the younger one and the hormonal pre-pubescence of the other. When they all wind up at the same vacation spot in Africa during the same time, they’re thrown together as if they’re a “blended” family, which they’re not. But they soon learn to be. And it’s fun to watch the affection develop.
Along the way, we have opportunity for all kinds of comedic moments, from slapstick to a band of over-the-top African singers to a band featuring African monkeys. But because this is family-oriented, we won’t have the violence, the gutter language, the nudity, or the sexuality so prevalent in other films, nor are there any chase scenes or car crashes or monster-predators. It’s just folks being who they are, which at times isn’t everything we’d like them to be. Maybe not even everything they’d like to be. But somehow love will find a way.
Sure, it’s a little schmaltzy, but also winsome, and cute, despite the occasional bathroom humor and sexual innuendo. Blended families might especially enjoy this one: perhaps most of all, those whose blending hasn’t always gone smoothly.
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, Minister, St. Stephen’s Presbyterian Church, Irving , Texas