Runtime 117 minutes.
OK for children.
Since my original estimate of the movie was so negative, I felt guilty when it actually made me laugh out loud just a few moments after I wondered if I could give it a rating lower than 0/10. How could I laugh out loud if it was such a lousy movie? And it kept getting better.
Despite leads Drew Barrymore and Adam Sandler, the biggest star of the movie is The Palace Hotel of the Lost City, the biggest hotel in the Sun City Resort, west of Pretoria, South Africa and a two hour drive from Johannesburg. It’s so eye-poppingly spectacular that I originally thought it must be movie magic through green screen, but apparently it’s real. Production designer Perry Andelin Blake and cinematographer Julio Macat provide award-quality, breathtaking visuals throughout the film.
The movie starts dismally with a blind date between single parents Barrymore and Sandler. The scene is so lacking in humor and originality that it made both me and my guest want to bolt, thinking we were in for two hours of clumsy dialogue and attempts at humor lowlighted by Barrymore spitting her food all over Sandler. It was at this point that I told my guest that she could leave if she so desired.
Almost immediately, however, came a scene among Barrymore, Sandler, and Barrymore’s best friend, Wendi McLendon-Covey (who set up the blind date), that got me laughing so hard. From that point on writers Ivan Menchell and Clare Sera get it in gear and produce a film that’s funny and full of good family values.
It’s not just happy and carefree, however. There are some touching scenes that bring tears to your eyes, too. Hard as it may be for some to believe, Sandler and Barrymore do fine jobs of acting. As I’ve said before, Adam would be well-advised to leave the influence of his buddy, Judd Apatow, behind and consider more movies that aren’t filled with vulgar language and sophomoric scenes.
The film is filled with a wonderful amalgam of African music, old favorites, and a few new songs. Director Frank Coraci supplies a roaming Greek Chorus known as Thathoo, comprised of nine singers who harmonize behind infectious, captivating Terry Crews, who pops up throughout as the resort’s jovial hip singing host.
A “B” story throughout involves Sandler’s beautiful daughter, Bella Thorne, who Sandler is apparently trying to make into a boy (named Hilary, he calls her “Larry”) in the only discordant part of the movie. If Adam is such a good, caring father, why would he create such sexual confusion in a teenaged daughter?
That’s not enough, though, to spoil a movie that makes one leave feeling good and wanting more.