Who wouldn't want to re-create the screen magic Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore established in 50 First Dates and The Wedding Singer?

Especially since it's so easy: Just put them in the same frame. The chemistry between them is so inert that proximity is the best you can do.

The challenge for Blended, a thoroughly routine slap-rom, is to build a colorful tent around the dead zone of its leads.

The premise and the casting director do all the work.

Sandler is a widower with three young daughters; Barrymore is a divorcee with two feral sons. It's hate at first sight for the couple. You can tell by the nastiness of the insults they swap through the first hour that they are destined for a dewy finish.

Actually, when the oft-delayed first kiss finally arrives, Sandler looks as pained and reluctant as a child tasting octopus for the first time.

Fortunately, there's a lot of distraction, including the African setting (by wild coincidence, both families end up at the expensive Sun City resort), the scene-consuming kids, and a pageant of showy supporting roles (Wendi McLendon-Covey, Terry Crews, Kevin Nealon, Joel McHale, Shaquille O'Neal, even sportscaster Dan Patrick).

Blended throws a lot of things on the screen, but in the end, it has to confront its awkward and artificial "romance." And that's just ugly.

Blended * (out of four stars)

Directed by Frank Coraci. With Adam Sandler, Drew Barrymore, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Terry Crews. Distributed by Warner Bros.

Running time: 1 hour, 57 mins.

Parent's guide: PG-13 (profanity, crude and sexual content).

Playing at: area theaters.EndText

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