Cast: Adam Sandler, Drew Barrymore, Bella Thorne, Terry Crews
Director: Frank Coraci
Running Time: 117 minutes
Synopsis: After a disastrous blind date, single parents Lauren (Drew Barrymore) and Jim (Adam Sandler) agree on only one thing: they never want to see each other again. But when they each sign up separately for a fabulous family vacation with their kids, they are all stuck sharing a suite at a luxurious African safari resort for a week.
Review: Funny and interesting yet a traditional Adam Sandler film, Blended will keep audiences interested and laughing. Comedic, light yet slightly tacky, Blended is a particularly good family film.
- Brooke Hunter
Release Date: June 12th, 2014
Lauren: I naturally assumed you were divorced.
Jim: That's okay. I naturally assumed your husband shot himself.
Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore first fell in love on the big screen in 'The Wedding Singer," and audiences fell in love with them. Their spontaneous and undeniable chemistry propelled them through the next '50 First Dates" and now, 16 years after that first hello, Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore are reunited in 'Blended," a romantic comedy that takes a sweet and funny look at love"but this time, from a very different point of view.
'Blended" director Frank Coraci knows that chemistry well, having watched it develop while directing the pair in 'The Wedding Singer." 'They clicked immediately," he recounts. 'We were all very young and having a great time and I think so much of what worked on that movie came from how easily the two of them played off each other and could joke around and make each other laugh. On -Blended,' they were better than ever. It's their familiarity and comfort with each other that makes them comedically fearless. And because of their mutual respect and affection for one another, no matter how far they push their feisty banter, there is always an undertone of sweetness that comes through."
'We really do like each other and have tremendous respect for each other," says Adam Sandler, before citing what he believes may be the real secret of their success as a movie couple: 'We also have zero attraction to one another. Drew has seen me shirtless and has just walked away, laughing."
'Hey, I've seen you shirtless and I'm still here, so what does that tell you?," she counters. 'I think Adam Sandler and I have always been in sync and really bring out the best in each other," Drew Barrymore continues. 'I love working with him. We're constantly thinking about how to make our characters more personal and genuine and there's a lot of care that goes into it, but at the same time we can let go and be silly and free together."
Not surprisingly, their collaboration on 'Blended" came about organically, when their hectic work and family schedules finally dovetailed into a lunch date"and, from there, a renewed excitement about working together again. Says Drew Barrymore, 'We both felt it was time; let's get something going. And then, to Adam Sandler's credit, he found us the perfect project"a big, fun comedy with real, touching moments."
Adam Sandler, who also served as a producer on 'Blended," with Mike Karz, and with longtime Happy Madison producing partner Jack Giarraputo, sent her the script. 'I said, -I think I have a good one. I love it, and would you take a look at this, Drewsky?'" he recalls. 'She loved it, too. And the next thing I knew, we were heading for Africa."
'Blended" not only offered the two stars the chance to recreate their magic on screen but to expand their romantic repertoire as single parents Jim and Lauren, in a scenario that many people can relate to. While struggling to make a living and raise their kids as best they can, looking for love is a more complicated proposition than it once was, involving after-school schedules, babysitters, curfews and tough questions. Priorities have shifted. No longer a matter of just finding that one special person, it's now about finding that one special person who will also be good for your children. Very often, it's the dreams and desires of the adults that are the last item on the list.
The timing for Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore was ideal, Frank Coraci notes. 'What's different about the two of them this time, which was really appropriate for the story, is that, like their characters, Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore are both parents now, with all these added responsibilities. Whereas those earlier movies were more about first love and just starting out, this is about two people who never lost that capacity for fun and romance but have also experienced more of life, and they definitely brought that wisdom and perspective to the roles."
'Who doesn't want to laugh and escape into something that is actually about real life, and family, and love, and the day-to-day things we all go through with our marriages and our kids," asks Drew Barrymore. 'It's very relevant, and there are some heartfelt, meaningful moments in this movie that will definitely touch you, but make you feel good at the same time."
Producer Karz offers the initial inspiration for the story. 'I had been reading some years ago about how hotel chains were starting to offer what they called -familymoon' vacation packages," he says, 'which were intended for couples who had children from previous marriages. The newlyweds would bring their children along with them on their honeymoon so they could all spend quality time together away from the pressures of daily life."
Screenwriters Ivan Menchell and Clare Sera took the essence of that idea and instead of securing the relationship first and then trying to rally the offspring, took a different approach. 'We thought it could be more interesting for two people to have a disastrous blind date and then be forced together with their kids to share a family vacation," says Ivan Menchell. On top of that, 'They take over this package from someone else, with all the things those other people had put into play, whether a romantic dinner or what the kids were going to do, so these two are now living someone else's dream, which is their nightmare."
Additionally, says Clare Sera, 'We wanted to have a place where they would be confined and couldn't leave, so, once they both committed to the package, there was no way out." Placing the story in such an exotic and expansive setting also goes a long way toward dragging Jim and Lauren out of their daily routines and comfort zones"as well as, maybe, their assumptions about each other"and toward a rush of experiences they couldn't have imagined having, let alone enjoying, weeks ago. Even if it's because they have no choice. 'In some ways," Frank Coraci suggests, 'Dating with kids isn't essentially that much different than dating without kids. Either way, it often starts with the most important element of all: a sense of humour."
Nickens: Welcome to our first annual Blended Family Week. I'm looking at all you beautiful children, step-children, step-dads, step-moms, same-sex domestic partners, involved donors… and of course, good old-fashioned booty calls gone wrong.
Setting the scene of Jim and Lauren's first meeting, Adam Sandler says, 'She's recently divorced, and my character, Jim, is widowed. They were both married a long time and they're really not ready to date again, but their friends keep telling them they have to move on. So, somehow they get set up on this blind date and it doesn't go well. They're nervous. He says all the wrong things and drinks her beer, and then she ends up choking on her soup and that's pretty much the high point of the evening."
'They almost start to get into a rhythm several times but it goes awry each time and that's so true to life," adds Drew Barrymore. 'How many times have we met someone and maybe liked them, and had things in common, but just couldn't get it right somehow. And you think, -Why does it keep going off the rails with this person?'"
Rather than a fresh start, the encounter only strengthens their resolve to re-focus on their children and jobs and forget about dating for the foreseeable future. If ever. But circumstances then intervene in the form of Lauren's best friend and business partner, Jen, played by Wendi McLendon-Covey.
If Jim and Lauren exemplify some of the dilemmas and conflicted desires of single parents on the dating circuit, Jen proudly represents the opposite end of the spectrum: single, unfettered and working it. 'My character is the type of woman who wears platform stilettos to a Little League game," says Wendi McLendon-Covey of the free-spirited Jen, a woman of few responsibilities and even less patience.
Jen often regales her more buttoned-up buddy with tales of her amorous adventures while they work, but lately her stories have revolved more and more around one particular man, a potential keeper named Dick. In fact, she and Dick had just crossed the L-word threshold and were planning a spectacular getaway at a South African safari resort when, as Jen would say, he dropped the bomb.
'He'd been holding out the fact that he had five kids and when Jen finds out about it, she's not happy. She breaks up with him," says Wendi McLendon-Covey. 'She's not ready to be a step-mom to five children. Are you kidding me?! And that's how Lauren's family and Jim's family get to go on this incredible trip."
Seizing the opportunity to take her boys on a vacation they'll never forget, Lauren secures half of Jen's unwanted accommodations at a deep discount while, unbeknownst to either of them, Jim works his own connections to strike the same savvy deal for the other half, for himself and his girls. Two weeks later, they all come surprisingly face-to-face in the stunning courtyard of one of the world's most elegant and romantic hotels, where every detail is themed toward a special 'Blended Family" extravaganza...and every other room is booked.
After sorting out their sleeping quarters along absolute boundary lines, the seven of them troop down to the exquisite dining room to make the best of it and are seated next to what might be the world's happiest couple. Newlyweds Eddy and Ginger, played by Kevin Nealon and Jessica Lowe, are clearly having an entirely different experience than Jim and Lauren. They can't keep their hands off each other, to their everlasting delight and to the disgust and mortification of Eddy's teenage son, who exudes all the goodwill of a hostage at the table. 'Eddy is married to a much younger woman, who is only about six years older than his son," says Kevin Nealon, 'and they have quite a gritty and dirty relationship."
The laid-back Eddy also has a curious way of narrating each moment in affirmative stream-of-consciousness soundbites: 'Changes. Gotta let it go. Turning the page. Moving on. Accepting it. Circle of life." Ginger, instead, finds that words aren't nearly as effective in expressing her feelings as a shimmy and a giggle.
'Oh boy," says Jessica Lowe, making her feature film debut, 'I do a lot of giggling in this movie. The first time I appear on screen is the dinner scene and I'm making out with Kevin Nealon, one of my comedy idols, so I was a little nervous and excited anyway. Eddy and Ginger just make out constantly and make everyone else uncomfortable. They're like rabbits." 'The characters were written to be all over each other, and we came up with a lot of different ways to show that," hints Kevin Nealon. 'Jessica Lowe has a great sense of humor and she's game for anything. My real wife was with me during filming. She's also an actress so she's very understanding and she just said, -Do whatever you need to do; but just for the film.'"
Meanwhile, underscoring everyone's discomfort is the floorshow, a nine-member harmony group called Thathoo, fronted by Terry Crews as the charming, crooning, hip-swaying Nickens, whom the actor laughingly calls 'the South African Tom Jones. He really is one of the most stylish characters in movie history. I can't wait for audiences to see Nickens in all his glory, in his splendid outfits and showing off his guns," he says.
'Terry Crew is the only person alive who can pull off the crazy wig and suits he wears in -Blended,'" laughs Frank Coraci. 'That guy oozes charisma, and now people are going to find out that he can sing and dance, too. There's really nothing he can't do."
Nickens is all about the love: singing it, welcoming it, and calling it as he sees it. Toward this end, he and his group don't limit their message to the stage but circulate throughout the resort to celebrate every tender moment they can find with an impromptu musical commentary. 'It just catches you and you never see it coming. It's like, BLAM, Nickens and Thathoo are here! Out of nowhere, they just appear," says Terry Crews. 'But he observes everything and he knows everything that is going on at the resort between the couples, and he sums it all up through his music."
In the midst of all this atmosphere, Jim's and Lauren's children are not entirely convinced this isn't the secret romantic getaway their parents somehow planned all along"despite their repeated denials.
Says Drew Barrymore, 'So much of the movie is about the kids and the families, and this great balance that happens, and the five young actors really make their characters come to life. When I first read the script, I could see that this movie was going to live and breathe a lot from the kids. It's not easy to find five great young actors like this and they're just awesome."
'Finding the right kids was super important for me in the success of telling this story believably," adds Frank Coraci. 'We spent a lot of time in casting sessions mixing and matching the kids with Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore. I brought my still camera and did photo shoots with them, partially to look at the pictures but even more so to capture the vibe of seeing them being goofy together, or posing during a loving hug. It was about them having real chemistry"the kind you find between brothers, sisters and parents."
'They are dynamite," Adam Sandler concurs. 'Cute as hell and funny as hell, and we all got very close. When the five of them are together they definitely dominate."
Bella Thorne stars as Jim's eldest, Hilary, a 15-year-old who is clearly emerging as a beautiful young woman, despite having a dad who calls her Larry, dresses her like a boy, and encourages her to protein-load at the buffet. Emma Fuhrmann is the middle child, 12-year-old Espn, named for Jim's favorite TV station. Espn is a sensitive soul who's having an especially tough time getting over the loss of her mom, with whom she still 'talks" on a daily basis. And little Lou, played by Alyvia Alyn Lind, is four-going-on-40, an adorable but surprisingly sophisticated personality who isn't afraid to speak her mind.
Lauren, meanwhile, has her hands full with Brendan, a wily 13-year-old, played by Braxton Beckham, who, as the de facto man of the house, is a little overly protective of his mom; and 9-year-old Tyler, a fearless, filter-less, ball of energy endlessly in search of something to climb, break or set on fire, played by Kyle Red Silverstein.
Drew Barrymore, who bonded easily with her movie sons, nicknamed the two actors Onion and Scallion and they, in turn, referred to the well-known foodie as The Chef.
'It's a dream cast," says Mike Karz. 'Adam Sandler read the script and immediately had some people in mind who he thought would be great in the film. Once those roles were cast we spent a lot of time and effort selecting the kids. It took awhile to land on this combination but we believe we really hit it out of the park with these five incredible young actors and actresses."
As the two families settle into their safari holiday, it's Hilary who reaches across the aisle first, enlisting Lauren's help in the style department while trying to catch the attention of her new crush, Eddy's son Jake, played by Zak Henri. In the process, she makes a transformation that is at once amazing and perfectly natural, bringing out some of her more feminine qualities while not compromising any of the strengths and skills that could conceivably earn her a basketball scholarship.
As Bella Thorne explains, 'Hilary is a tomboy but that doesn't mean she isn't a girl too. She's a little shy and self-conscious and just wants to jump out of her skin sometimes. Her hair is kind of a curly, frizzy bowl and she's always in track suits, which doesn't help."
'Bella Thorne was brilliant," Frank Coraci attests. 'Here's a young woman who is known for being stylish and beautiful on red carpets and in magazines, and she has to shed her make-up, have bad hair and wear horribly fitting outfits. But she committed to it completely. She's funny, she's engaging, and she can dance, and, fortunately, she gets to showcase all of that in this movie."
The unflattering -do shared by all three girls is the same as Jim's, because he takes them to his barber and that's the only cut the old man knows. It's partly convenience, with maybe a touch of not knowing any better, but, Adam Sandler suggests, there may be more to it than the widower is willing to admit: 'He has three sweet daughters and he doesn't want them to look too pretty because he doesn't want them to grow up too fast and leave their daddy." Ironically, it's their different parenting styles that Jim and Lauren initially cite as one of the myriad proofs of their fundamental incompatibility, but it's those contrasting approaches that could play a large part in bringing them"and their families"together.
'Jim's girls are being raised by him alone after their mom passed away, and you can tell there isn't a female around so they really enjoy talking to Drew Barrymore's character," Adam Sandler explains. Conversely, notes Drew Barrymore, 'Lauren's boys don't want to like Jim because they don't want any man to come in and try to be their father."
The boys already have a biological father, Mark, played by Joel McHale, but he isn't around much, and isn't very dependable when he is. Barrymore describes the character as 'a little flaky," but Joel McHale doesn't mince words. 'Mark is a complete jerk," he says. 'He was a cheater, who left Lauren and their two kids and now he's her ex-husband. It's always great to play a jerk. You know you're going to have a good time with a role like that."
Rounding out the main cast is Abdoulaye N'gom, who appears as the South African resort's genial host Mfana, a man with a warm, booming laugh and an uncanny ability to smoothly forge ahead with his agenda despite any and all setbacks. ESPN's Dan Patrick takes on the role of Dick, Jen's well-meaning beau who also happens to be the owner of Dicks' Sporting Goods and Jim's boss. And basketball legend Shaquille O'Neal appears as Jim's coworker and freelance relationship counselor, Doug.
Lauren: Tyler, what are you doing? Get off that dodo bird right now!
Jim: It's not a dodo bird, it's an ostrich. And he's fine.
'Blended" was filmed largely on location in South Africa. Production centered on the luxurious Sun City Resort and neighboring Pilanesberg Game Reserve, a longtime international tourist destination west of Pretoria and a two-hour drive from Johannesburg. Having thrown the unsuspecting Jim and Lauren into close quarters with their shared vacation package, the plan was to then make it impossible for them to walk away the instant they caught sight of one another and this was one place guaranteed to accomplish that. Matching their unexpected circumstances with an equally unexpected setting also allowed the filmmakers a chance to play everything out on a grand scale amidst authentic wildlife and breathtaking vistas, as the two families share a once-in-a-lifetime experience unlike anything they had ever seen before.
'Blended" marks the first time Frank Coraci has worked on the African continent. An avid traveler whose previous films included locations in Europe, China, Russia and Thailand, he says of the shoot, 'The experience of filming here, especially on safari, had a remarkable impact. The rawness of nature, the spirituality of the South African culture and the people we met really found their way into its fabric."
The showpiece of this remote paradise was Sun City's biggest hotel, The Palace of the Lost City, featuring massive carved columns with animal details, cathedral ceilings, inlaid stone floors and numerous murals and mosaics. In short, it's the perfect setting for couples seeking a fairytale experience. Production designer Perry Andelin Blake adapted many of the hotel's interiors and grounds as sets, including the Valley of the Waves, where Lauren first notices Hilary shyly checking out Jake from a distance, and the Royal Bath pool, around which Blake staged a disco. The building's palatial main dining room needed only minimal augmentation in the way of candles, lavish floral bouquets and lots of red accents to tailor it more toward love birds than general clientele.
The production also introduced a gigantic statue of an elephant. 'Their African adventure begins when they arrive in this magnificent portico, and even though it's already an impressive place, we wanted something of even greater stature to really give it an amazing feel and set the scene," says Perry Andelin Blake, a frequent collaborator with Coraci and Sandler, on films including 'The Wedding Singer" and 'Click." 'So we built a 20-foot statue of an African bull elephant with 6-foot tusks, a duplicate of the bronze statue that stands in the rear of the hotel." The statue also serves to distract Lauren and Jim from their first barbed confrontation when Tyler clambers up its side and uses its 6-foot tusks as a jungle gym. Because it had to be structurally sound for the stunt, it was made of fiberglass over a steel frame, and painted to look like bronze.
Perry Andelin Blake fully redesigned two existing rooms into the so-called familymoon suite: one, a lively animal-patterned playroom for the kids and the other a laughably over-the-top love nest for the allegedly happy couple, complete with 'a gigantic, heart-shaped, vibrating bed with big tusk hearts over it, and a mirror above it all," he says.
Adding to the general ambience are wild animals, seemingly everywhere they look. Conveniently, Sun City borders the Pilanesberg Game Reserve, home to lions, cheetahs, elephants, rhinos, zebras, giraffes, hippos and crocodiles, some of which provided an occasional cameo. But the animals featured on screen were actually a combination of the reserve's natural population plus a number of trained animal actors and CGI.
For a scene in which Jim, Lauren and their kids set off on a group safari with Eddy, Ginger and Jake, the filmmakers enlisted animal trainer Luke Cornell, of South Africa-based Union Pictures, to provide a pair of lions for a unexpected teachable moment, as well as seven Savannah elephants and one exceptionally amorous giraffe. Such staged nature encounters were later integrated with second-unit footage shot at both Pilanesberg and Kruger National Park.
Throughout the six-week location shoot, cast and crew were acutely aware of protocol regarding the animals, for the animals' safety as well as their own. Luke Cornell kept a close watch on his charges, which were housed privately and away from the action while not performing, and the resort posted warnings about maintaining distance and a hands-off policy at all times.
But Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore, both of whom enjoyed wildlife safaris on their off-hours, can attest to the fact that no one communicated this rule to the animals.
Drew Barrymore recalls, 'There were signs on all the hotel windows with strict instructions about keeping them closed, day or night. And they weren't kidding. Baboons and monkeys would come in because, of course, people would leave their windows open, and they just went to town, ransacked everything."
'It was like a crime scene," says Adam Sandler.
Seemingly, one exception to the non-fraternisation clause occurs as Jim shares a bonding moment with Lauren's younger son, Tyler, while getting up-close and personal with a couple of high-stepping ostriches. The scene opens with each of them astride a giant bird bent on unseating them as quickly as possible. Tyler holds fast, while Jim's ostrich spins around and, with an indignant squawk and a great flap of wings, pitches him headlong into a water trough.
In fact, neither ostrich was real. Adam Sandler and Silverstein, who was 11 at the time, were both 'riding" men outfitted in all-blue suits and special saddle rigs. 'They looked like weird blue superheroes," Frank Coraci jokes. 'The guy carrying Kyle was having a much easier time than the guy who had Adam on his back, but he was a trouper. He had to run full speed and do spins. It was like the football workout for a lineman."
Visual effects supervisor Peter G. Travers, who has teamed with Frank Coraci on three of his films, adds, 'We later replaced the blue suits with computer-generated ostriches that could do everything we wanted exactly on command."
Frank Coraci says, 'The best compliment Peter Travers and I get is that people are completely convinced the ostriches are real."
Not one to be left in anyone's dust, Drew Barrymore participated in another stunt that had her dangling from a wire 40 feet off the ground in a parasailing sequence that starts out tense and then blossoms beautifully into joyous, life-affirming euphoria… right before it all goes to hell.
The action was captured on site along a dirt runway in the bush with the actress, in harness, being pulled off a truck bed as if hoisted aloft 100 feet by a parachute. She was in fact raised approximately 40 feet in the air by wires suspended from two cranes. Stunt coordinator Grant Hulley explains, 'We had the cranes rigged in a double axis system to simulate her parasailing. Drew Barrymore was flying left to right between two points, moving at different speeds, and also up and down. We had other rigs for when she's coming down and her feet are running." Says Frank Coraci, 'We later used visual effects to add a dynamic parachute and an entirely CG rhinoceros that makes Drew Barrymore's landing even more comedically challenging. To fully complete the reality of the scene, we used aerial footage captured by a stunt double flying at 100 feet in the air.
'Drew Barrymore did a lot of the heavy lifting in this movie as far as physical comedy, and she's hilarious," the director continues. 'In the parasailing scene, the reason it's so funny is the sheer panic she conveys. We talked about the process and everything we could do to make it as real as possible, so she was literally up there moving around at a very fast speed. She wanted to go through the physical action because we knew that when you pull someone off the back of a truck and fly them straight up into the air, actress or not, the scream and the fear you hear is going to be very real. She fully embraced it. It was a crazy, hyper carnival ride we put her on to get that kind of authentic reaction."
Following their work in South Africa, Frank Coraci brought his team stateside to complete photography in and around the Lake Lanier region of Georgia, encompassing the towns of Buford, Gainesville and Flowery Branch. Here also, they utilised a number of practical sets, including a Hooter's restaurant in Lawrenceville and an actual Dick's Sporting Goods store at the Mall of Georgia, which was large enough to accommodate their equipment and staff without closing, so local fans caught a glimpse of Adam Sandler and Shaquille O'Neal in their scenes together.
Says producer Jack Giarraputo, 'It was a pleasure shooting in Georgia. The locations there gave us a lot to choose from, with a good feeling of small-town suburban America, which is what we were going for. We used the Lake Lanier Islands Resort as a base camp for the production and our location shoots, and converted a storage facility into a sound stage where we built four sets."
The baseball field where Little Leaguer Tyler tries to connect with the ball while friends and family cheer him on was a different story. The filmmakers envisioned a small, stand-alone field and ended up building it entirely, from bleachers to scoreboard to snack shack, on a vacant space in Flowery Branch, where it now remains as part of the community.
In addition to some 300 area extras, 'We hired some local baseball coaches to help us find kids who could play, and used actual Little League teams to double as the teams in the film, and they were all great," Jack Giarraputo says.
They also created a cricket field on another Georgian site for a scene set in South Africa, where Jim, always eager to help a budding athlete, coaches Tyler on his swing by making do with the closest approximation to baseball that he can find there. Famed South African cricketer Dale Steyn makes a cameo appearance"and his film debut"as the reluctant cricket bowler Jim enlists to 'pitch" to the youngster.
In keeping with Jim's sports sensibility, his girls are most often decked out in the gender-neutral sweats and tees he brings home from work, and which costume designer Christine Wada sourced from team warm-ups.
Overall, Christine Wada's style strategy was 'approachable and believable" for Lauren and 'single dad" for Jim. Within those parameters, Lauren was transitioned, she says, 'from conservative and uptight, pre-Africa, to more loosened up, post-Africa. We tried to keep her in primary tones in the beginning and then softened her palette as she lightened up."
But the designer really loosened the reins of reality with Nickens, whom she describes as 'a visual exclamation point," with his multiple body-conscious wardrobe changes that range from brightly patterned jackets with satin lapels or turquoise piping to chest-baring safari garb and barely-there workout gear. 'He's the South African Vegas experience. We decided Terry's character was the one place to be outrageous," she says.
'We Are Thathoo"
Throughout the families' South African sojourn, many of their squabbles, discoveries and awkward moments are happily seized upon and amplified by a kind of roaming Greek Chorus called Thathoo. The nine singers who harmonize so smoothly on screen, as well as on the 'Blended" soundtrack are, in fact, the renowned South African a-capppella group known as Junior Mambazo, led by Nkosinathi Shabalala, and ushered into the project by Adam Sandler and one of the film's executive producers, Tim Herlihy. Junior Mambazo represents a style of music that harkens back to the Great Zulu Empire, passed down through generations and more recently popularised as isicathamiya or 'tip toe music," that has influenced many contemporary artists as well as Broadway and Hollywood productions"most notably, 'The Lion King."
'We love what they brought to it so much, not just the comedy but the musical background," says Tim Herlihy. 'We had a lot of the elements but needed something to tie it all together so that the instant the families arrive you know they're in Africa and not just some other place with palm trees, and this music is so distinctive."
In keeping with its 'Blended" theme, the movie features a range of music, both African and American, juxtaposing traditional styles with contemporary.
'The South African portion of the story is shot with more colour and width, and the score really reflects that," says composer Rupert Gregson-Williams, marking his fourth feature with Frank Coraci. 'Frank Coraci has always been passionate about the scoring process. We spent a lot of time discussing the love story and my job was to comment on the growing affection between Adam Sandler's and Drew Barrymore's characters."
Rupert Gregson-Williams also worked closely with Grammy-winning South African singer/ composer Lebo M, who served as vocal arranger, to integrate Junior Mambazo into the mix. 'The score takes on some size with African percussion and the choir backing it up. The joy behind African music is so vibrant; it's hard not to be pulled along by it," he says.
In many ways, that echoes one of the film's main themes, about people stepping out of their routines and maybe gaining a new perspective where and when they least expect it.
Says Frank Coraci, 'What I love about this story is that we have two people who, at first, seem like they are the last people on the planet to be together. And, as the movie progresses, we discover that they are really living very parallel lives. It's only through their travel to another continent and the blending of their families that they realise they most definitely belong together. It's a challenging journey but therefore has a more earned and satisfying ending. 'If we can tell a fun and entertaining story that also touches on some bigger ideas about life and love and being open to possibilities, and if that stirs some emotion in people, then that's great, too," he concludes. 'That would make me happy."
Release Date: June 12th, 2014