Judging from the trailer, the upcoming Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore comedy Blended not only recycles their familiar on-screen partnership (this is the third romantic comedy they’ve done together) but also recycles dated Hollywood notions about “Africa.” The film is about a pair of single parents who after a dismal first date, magically end up on vacation at the same African resort.
The trailer features some tired tropes: smiling singing Africans, generic wildlife, and adventuring in the bush. While the characters exclaim “we’re going to Africa!”, the only place they end up going to is Sun City, famously boycotted in South Africa’s bad old days by United Artists Against Apartheid. Sun City was built during apartheid in what was then the “Bantustan” of Bophutatswana, one of the “homelands” created by the apartheid government as part of their “Separate Development” plan. It also made black South Africans involuntary citizens of phony sovereign states that they had no relationship to. However that’s a history lesson for another time.
One of the main reasons Hollywood films come to shoot in South Africa is that crew and location costs are much cheaper than in the States. Very rarely do they use South Africa for itself, for example using Cape Town as Seattle in Chronicle or as a monkey wrench of locations in The Lord of War. The new Sandler movie seems to do even worse: using South Africa to represent a homogenous composite of Africa that only exists in the minds of ignorant Westerners.
While I have no illusions about Sandler having a responsibility to create smart cinema, it would be great if they didn’t collapse a continent into a Holiday Inn.