Director Coraci finds perfect blend again with Sandler, Barrymore

'Blended' reunites filmmaker, stars for first time since 'Wedding Singer'

Sixteen years after the smash romantic comedy "The Wedding Singer" charmed moviegoers, the film's stars and director are blending seamlessly once again in three-part harmony.

The stars, of course, are Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore, who have reunited with director Frank Coraci for the family comedy "Blended." In a recent interview, Coraci, who went on to direct Sandler in "The Waterboy" and "Click" after "The Wedding Singer," said he was thrilled to finally get both Sandler and Barrymore together in one film again because the three click so well.

"It was such of a great feeling. We stayed friends over the years, but sometimes you don't see each other as much as you'd like to," Coraci said. "It was not only a great chance to all hang out again, but do what we do well when we're all together."

Opening in theaters nationwide Friday, "Blended" stars Sandler and Barrymore as Jim and Lauren, a pair of single parents who briefly meet on a disastrous blind date, only to be serendipitously thrown together with their kids on a vacation at an African resort.

Coraci said the timing of "Blended" couldn't have been any more perfect, because Sandler and Barrymore, who ended "The Wedding Singer" as a new couple, have each grown into important phases in their personal lives.

"Adam and Drew both have kids, so it really helped the storyline in every way because they understand what it's like to be parents," Coraci said.

Naturally, there are some romantic sparks that fly between Sandler and Barrymore in "Blended," but the movie also addresses how important it is for parents to put their kids first in their personal lives.

"The movie does not fall into the typical cliches of a romantic comedy. They don't fall in love over the typical things you see in movies, they fall in love because each realizes how great the other one is as a parent," Coraci said. "They really need each other because Drew's character has two boys and they really need a father figure, and Adam's character has three girls. But when you see the way the girls dress and have bad haircuts, yet are trying to grow up into women, they need some guidance and Drew is a great person they need in their lives."

Coraci said for the preview audience members who have seen the movie already, the "kids first" narrative has resonated the most.

"That's the core that people really love the most, that it was a whole different way for two people to appreciate and fall in love with each other," Coraci said.

While the chemistry between Barrymore and Sandler was instant, Coraci said what really added to the magic of the production was the fact that the cast and crew filmed the bulk of the movie on location in South Africa.

"We were all there together and it really felt like we were a family. We'd doing things on the weekends like go on safaris with the kids. It was great," Coraci said. "There was something really special about being on location there. Africa has such an amazing rawness as a backdrop. There's not only the nature, but a spiritual thing there. We put a lot of great African music in the movie. We really went beyond the next level of what we did in 'The Wedding Singer.'"

Fans of "The Wedding Singer," Coraci added, will notice a big change in the dynamic between Sandler and Barrymore, and the director couldn't be any more thrilled about it.

"For Drew, I have to say, when we did 'The Wedding Singer,' comedy was a newer thing to her," Coraci recalled. "But with 'Blended,' she is the total champ. The comedy stuff she does in this is unbelievable. She does a lot of the heavy lifting with the physical comedy. It's so great to see her and Adam together because they know each other so well. There's a confidence and fearlessness between them when they're together. There's a section of the movie where they don't like each other so they get to make fun of each other, and because they're such good friends they were really able to go for it."

The release of "Blended" comes on the heels of the debut of Coraci's new Travel Channel series "Chow Masters." Each week on the show, which airs Tuesday nights, the director and his longtime friend/celebrity chef Sammy D. pit three chefs in different cities across the U.S. to come up with the tastiest and most creatively cooked comfort foods.

In Tuesday night's episode, which travels to Los Angeles, the production promises Coraci and Sammy D. will chow down with a "major Hollywood superstar" and "another celebrity pal."

Could it be that Sandler and Barrymore are the ones who will be added to the "Chow Masters" mix? Coraci is tight-lipped about that idea and any other celebrity appearances planned for the show, but the prospect for some delicious cameos are certainly looking good.

Tim Lammers is a nationally syndicated movie journalist and the author of the new ebook Direct Conversations: The Animated Films of Tim Burton (Foreword by Tim Burton).