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  Bedtime Stories

Starring: Adam Sandler, Kerri Russell, Russell Brand, Guy Pearce, Teresa Palmer

Directed by: Adam Shankman

Produced by: Jack Giarraputo, Andrew Gunn, Adam Sandler

Written by: Matt Lopez (screenplay & story), Tim Herlihy (screenplay)

Distributor: Buena Vista


     My biggest criticism of Adam Sandler films is that they rely too heavily on poo-poo-ga-ga humor. Poorly written, juvenile jokes designed to appeal to Sandler’s base have long robbed the actor of the ability to show off what I suspect are true comedic talents. The exceptional P.T. Anderson black comedy Punch Drunk Love aside, Bedtime Stories is Sandler’s first opportunity to be funny without all the typical, teenage-targeted schlock due to its kid-friendly PG-rating. (The powerful Disney-Sandler brand fusion should not go unnoticed.) He delivers with a naturally funny presence and everyman appeal, but unfortunately the rest of the movie is uninspired in terms of story and execution.


     Sandler plays Skeeter Bronson, the handyman at a posh hotel owned by millionaire Barry Nottingham (Richard Griffiths) on the corner of West Hollywood’s Sunset and La Cienega Boulevards. Skeeter is the son of the late owner of a comfy motel that once occupied the same site. His father allowed Nottingham to build the hotel on the pretense that Skeeter would one day be the manager. But no such thing ever happened, nor does Nottingham plan on it, naming his snobbish son-in-law-to-be Kendall (Guy Pearce) the man in charge of his newest hotel.


     Enter Skeeter’s single-digit-aged nephew and niece, Patrick (Jonathan Morgan Heit) and Bobbi (Laura Ann Kesling). Unbeknownst to Skeeter, the kids’ soon-to-be-demolished school is the location of Nottingham’s new hotel. This is why their mom and principal, Wendy (Courtney Cox), must leave to find a new job while Skeeter looks after them. Hence the titular bedtime stories come into play, but they aren’t your average fairy-tales: the parts the kids make up actually come true in real life. Not surprisingly, the tales soon become about heroes winning out over evil competitors in quests for prominent positions. Oh, and there’s some romance thrown into the stories for good measure too, foreshadowing—you guessed it—a relationship between Skeeter and the movie’s love-interest, Jill (Kerri Russell), Bobbi and Patrick’s daytime caregiver while Mom’s away and a teacher at their school.


     Did I just spend two paragraphs writing about the plot of a Disney family film starring Adam Sandler? Yes I did, and Bedtime Stories has a high enough concept to earn as much. But the premise is the only thing endearing about the movie’s inception. There isn’t a lick of creativity to be found in Matt Lopez and Tim Herlihy’s script, which moves in all the expected directions, allowing Skeeter to (spoiler-alert if your IQ is 10!) outsmart Kendall to become hotel manager, save the kids’ school from getting demolished, and win Jill over. The only jokes written into the script involve an animated hamster(ish thing) named Bugsy, which appears for a good 10 minutes and has big eyes meant to make us laugh. These bits are actually pretty funny, but when the funniest material in a screenplay is an animated hamster, then you know there’s a problem.


     But Sandler is charming, and his natural screen presence comes through far more than usual in cleaner fare. He provides the movie its share of laugh-out-loud moments even when they’re absent in the script. (Many of these include the aforementioned Bugsy character, which I never expected to laugh at more than three times.) Most of the supporting performances are strong, too, with the surprising exception of Keri Russell, who has never seemed blander as Skeeter’s love-interest. The opposite is true of another Russell—Russell Brand—who offers his share of hilarious moments as Mickey, a lowly hotel kitchen employee who admires Skeeter to no end. Australian actress Teresa Palmer also turns in charismatic, attractive work as Nottingham’s Paris Hilton-like daughter and Kendall’s superficially-selected fiancée.


     The movie is directed by Adam Shankman, who has made a name for himself helming other mediocre family films like Cheaper by the Dozen, Hairspray, and The Pacifier. Here, he shows no new desire to be innovative behind the camera, despite a few creative visuals. (Even though it appears in the trailer, the “raining gumballs” scene still achieves all kinds of aesthetic whimsy during the movie.) This is the real problem of Bedtime Stories: beyond the performances, there’s no originality on display, meaning the movie can only succeed to a point. It’s mostly pleasant and will likely be treasured by those under 11, but that’s the case with hundreds of other movies. Call me old-fashioned, but I still believe Hollywood should be expected to churn out more than just passable entertainment.


-Danny Baldwin, Bucket Reviews

Review Published on: 1.5.2008

Screened on: 12.26.2008 at the Regal Escondido 16 in Escondido, CA.


Bedtime Stories is rated PG and runs 99 minutes.

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