Barrymore/Sandler is This Generation’s Ryan/Hanks

By  · Published on May 26th, 2014

New Line Cinema

Much has already been devoted to talking about how Blended is Drew Barrymore and Adam Sandler’s third romantic comedy together. The duo began as an unlikely pair in 1998’s The Wedding Singer, the 80s centric flick in which Sandler played an aspiring rock star paying the bills through wedding gigs and attempting to win the heart of the beautiful Julia. They entered their thirties by portraying Hawaii’s cutest amnesiac and the world’s most determined reformed womanizer in 50 First Dates in 2004.

And with this year’s entry into their romcom resume, they’ll slip into the shoes of divorcee parents who happen to get stuck on the same wild vacation together, even though they hate each other. Don’t you hate when that happens?

Sandler and Barrymore have this great trend of starring in a romantic comedy together about once every 10 years, and it’s working out well in their favor; how much more publicity have you seen being thrown toward Blended because it’s reuniting everyone’s favorite couple and not because of the content of the film itself? We’re all too aware of what’s probably going to happen in a modern day Sandler comedy, thanks. Their chemistry, likeability and the sheer nostalgia of bringing the two back together for another love story has made audiences wistful about these crazy kids; they remember rooting for them alongside Billy Idol almost 20 years ago, and now, they get that chance again.

Of course, Sandler and Barrymore are far from the first couple to pair up time and again in romantic comedy history. Once a couple has palpable chemistry onscreen, there’s always reason to get them back together, no matter the situation. Is she an aspiring architect this time and is he just trying to make it as a musician in New York City? Is she just quirky enough to be still desirable and is he the kind of womanizer who seems lovable and is probably just acting out because he hasn’t found the right woman yet? Why not make the same two actors play out these roles over and over; if there’s anything romcom audiences adore, it’s seeing their favorite stars fall in love over and over again.

In the realm of repeat romcom offenders, it’s interesting to see whom Sandler and Barrymore mimic in their own repertoire. They’re not so much Woody Allen and Diane Keaton, who shared the screen a whopping five times together. Starting with Play It Again, Sam in 1972 and ending with Radio Days in 1986, the once real life couple knew that they had a good thing going in theaters and played it to their advantage. Their 1977 film Annie Hall is their crowning glory, the story of a neurotic (what else?) comedian attempting to figure out what exactly went wrong when his relationship with the alluring Annie Hall ended a year ago. In Hall and the duo’s other collaborations, the story surrounding the romance at the core is more cerebral and heavier than something we’d see from a Sandler flick – unsurprisingly.

Sandler/Barrymore affairs have no frank discussions about death and the future, nor do they ever begin anywhere after the breakup has occurred. The Sandler brand of comedy is about keeping things lighthearted and aspirational. He’s going for the girl who’s beautiful, but could also be a girl you meet in line at the coffee shop – she’s just that spectacular and wholly relatable. He’s cute in an approachable, charming way; his laundry list of character flaws are masked by his slapstick. He and Barrymore are not Allen and Keaton; watching Rob Schneider extract himself from yet another wacky situation isn’t necessarily the same as a Central Park stroll.

There’s another romcom duo that fits their bill a little closer – could Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore be the next Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan?

The repeat costars took on three romantic comedies together: Joe Versus the Volcano, Sleepless in Seattle and You’ve Got Mail. In a way, the torch was passed in 1998, the year that Mail premiered and The Wedding Singer hit theaters. Hanks and Ryan ruled the nineties with their feel good, lighthearted romps that defied much logic and sense to get our lovebirds together at the end – sound familiar?

In 1993’s Sleepless in Seattle, Ryan’s methods to get a man she had never met to meet her at the top of the Empire State Building because she believes they’re destined to be together was hailed as romantic and dreamy – something that would be considered completely insane and serve as good grounds for a stalking suit, actually. In 1990’s Joe Versus the Volcano, they’re lovers who meet on a sinking yacht while Hanks is en route to throw himself into a vat of lava because he’s got nothing else to live for after a fatal diagnosis. Fate, right? And Mail concerns two bookstore owners, one local, one megastore, who fall in love over instant messenger despite their inherent differences and love for khaki slacks.

Their movies are beloved and rewatched because they’re silly, they’re fun and there’s a connection to the characters that Hanks and Ryan are portraying in their various trials and tribulations. Despite the fact that Hanks is playing someone willing to jump into an active volcano because, hey, beats a slow death and the cash payoff doesn’t hurt, you’re still rooting for him to beat that volcano and beat that fatal disease because true love should prevail. When Ryan is madly in love with the man who destroyed her bookstore dreams but feels super bad about it, you’re still onboard – because she wanted it to be him this whole time.

There may need to be some more time removed before we see if the same can be applied to the Sandler/Barrymore dynamic. The Wedding Singer became an instant romcom classic as audiences rooted for hopeless romantic Robbie to fulfill his dreams of marrying Julia and making it big as a rock star. With the help of Sandler’s sweet “Grow Old With You,” their characters (and Billy Idol) will always be remembered for the scene where he finally tries to win the girl.

While 50 First Dates was an enjoyable popcorn flick that saw the two reunited – a smart move after the success of their first venture – it veered more into the territory of Sandler and the Happy Madison crew’s gross out humor, rather than capturing the sweetness of their original coupling. With Blended, a film set firmly in Sandler’s post-Grownups, “let’s see how much I can get away with and have you still show up to the theater” phase, it will be interesting to see what approach they take to their onscreen relationship. Will this be the Robbie and Julia from nearly twenty years ago? Or will this be a parade of jokes about Africa with some romance sprinkled in between? Even without seeing it, you may already know the answer.

The difference between the two could be what makes or breaks their standing as a solid romcom couple. There are some who last, and have their names remain prominent in the genre for years later – remember, Hanks and Ryan’s last film together was in 1998 and they’re still the go-to couple. Are Sandler and Barrymore significant, steadfast pillars of romantic comedy, or are they just two actors with chemistry who happen to make cute movies together once every decade? Apparently a vacation to Africa will have to decide.

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