By Rich Cline
Even with its inane script and limp direction, this film is watchable simply because Drew Barrymore is present to humanise Adam Sandler. How she does this is a mystery, but the fact remains that he's annoyingly unlikeable without her. And history proves the point: Sandler's best-ever performances were in two films opposite Barrymore, 1998's The Wedding Singer and 2004's 50 First Dates. Although this movie isn't quite in that league.
They play Lauren and Jim, who meet on a disastrous blind date and vow never to see each other again. But they end up inadvertently sharing a safari holiday to South Africa when Lauren's best pal (Wendi McLendon-Covey) and Jim's boss cancel a holiday with their five kids. Which is handy since Lauren has two energetic sons (Braxton Beckham and Kyle Red Silverstein) while Jim has three needy daughters (Bella Thorne, Emma Fuhrmann and Alyvia Alyn Lind). Of course, the children are happy to have same-sex role models along, even if Lauren and Jim can't bear to be around each other.
There isn't a split-second when we don't know exactly where this plot is heading, even though the script veers wildly between wacky slapstick mayhem and sappy lesson-learning sentimentality. Every scene is carefully concocted to elicit either laughter or tears, and the manipulative filmmaking occasionally works. Although the movie's funniest moments are offhanded gags that feel improvised between Barrymore and Sandler. The child actors are all decent, carefully cast so each each simplistic character can have his or her corny journey to some sort of personal discovery.
While it's just about watchable, the movie's so under-powered that it feels like director Frank Coraci (who also made The Wedding Singer) was asleep at the wheel. He wastes ace scene-stealers like McLendon-Covey and Kevin Nealon (as a fellow tourist), and somehow manages to make an African safari look dull. In other words, everything about this film feels lazy, and yet with Barrymore and Sandler on-screen it still manages to drum up a hint of charm.
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Facts and Figures
In Theaters: Friday 23rd May 2014
Box Office Worldwide: $123.5M
Distributed by: Warner Bros. Pictures
Production compaines: Warner Brothers, Warner Bros., Happy Madison, Gulfstream Pictures
Contactmusic.com: 2.5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 14%
Fresh: 18 Rotten: 110
Cast & Crew
Screenwriter: Ivan Menchell, Clare Sera
Starring: Drew Barrymore as Lauren, Adam Sandler as Jim, Wendi McLendon-Covey as Jen, Bella Thorne as Hilary, Terry Crews as Nickens, Joel McHale as Mark, Lauren Lapkus as Babysitter, Kevin Nealon as Eddy, Alyvia Alyn Lind as Lou, Emma Fuhrmann as Espn, Anna Colwell as Bubbles, Abdoulaye N'Gom as Mfana, Kyle Red Silverstein as Tyler