Jim (Adam Sandler) and Lauren (Drew Barrymore) go on a blind date. It is a disaster. Fast forward a few over-the-top events later and the two – along with their respective kids – find themselves in Africa at a resort for families for a week of good old family-holiday fun.
Now meet the families. Lauren has two sons, hormonal teenager Brendan (Braxton Beckham) and hyperactive Tyler (Kyle Red Silverstein). Jim has three daughters – budding teenage sports star Hilary (Bella Thorne), the sensitive Espn (Emma Fuhrman) and sweet little Lou (Alyvia Alyn Lind). Also assigned to their daily meal table are an odd trio from Vancouver – Eddy (Kevin Nealon), his much-younger new wife Ginger (Jessica Lowe) and his brooding son Jake (Zak Henri). Throw in over-enthusiastic, under-informed tour guide Mfana (Abdoulaye NGom) and an omnipresent group of chorus singers led by Nickens (Terry Crews) and you have all the elements for a crazy adventure.
Problem is, not all the elements are equal – Jim and his daughters, doing their best to deal with the death of his wife and their mother, bring the warm and fuzzy to the story. Sandler is particularly watchable as the goofy but capable dad who loves his daughters but has no real clue of their more feminine needs. Lauren and her two sons are a different matter. Between her hyperactive younger son, angsty hormonal older one, and an ex-husband Mark (Joel McHale) who is clearly there just to be a jerk, the laughs are few and far between. When the boys complain about their mother’s boring idea for what they could do during the holidays (“bowling and going to the mall”), you kind of want to point them in the direction of comedian Louis CK’s speech to his daughters about why they are never allowed to be bored. Comedian Kevin Nealon seems set in the ways of his creepy, laid-back, not-altogether-a-bad-guy character from the TV show Weeds. His new bride Ginger brings the sexy to the story and in her case less would really have been more because combined with her helium voice, ‘sexy’ quickly feels like ‘crazy’, and you can’t tolerate too much of that in one movie.
That said, there are some highly orchestrated but funny sequences in the film that keep the story moving along towards its fairly predictable end. But let’s face it, we didn’t go into this expecting nuance or surprises. There is one thing I can’t put my finger on though – why this movie wasn’t a complete bust. Even amidst the general nonsense I found myself welling up and really feeling for Jim and his daughters. The way each of the children deals with their absent mother and present, well-meaning father was really very sweet and effective. It makes the film hard to dismiss.
Final Analysis: If your threshold for whacky is high and you don’t mind stereotyping-gone-wild you will find enough to laugh about for a decent, if forgettable, time at the movies.
My Advice: Check it out if you have nothing better to do, and are an Adam Sandler fan.