At The Picture Show
Go to sleep
Can't complain about 'Bedtime Stories' - it offers only what's expected of it
Walt Disney Pictures
Director: Adam Shankman
Screenplay: Matt Lopez and Tim Herlihy
Starring: Adam Sandler, Keri Russell, Guy Pearce, Russell Brand, Richard
Griffiths, Teresa Palmer, Courteney Cox, Laura Ann Kesling and Jonathan Morgan
Rated PG / 1 hour, 35 minutes
Opened December 25, 2008
(out of four)
The one thing you can say about movies like Bedtime Stories is that, generally
speaking, they meet your expectations. You know what you're getting from the
start - it's probably not going to be much better and it's probably not going to be
You always hope, though, that this'll be one of the exceptions - the rare movie that
manages to hit its demographic without sacrificing quality.
But when you add the extra caveat of Adam
Sandler being involved, those chances diminish significantly. For all their
innocence and good intentions, Sandler's movies are sentimentally cloying and
emotionally dishonest. But, y'know, for kids.
By that standard, Bedtime Stories is a rousing success. Yes, it's still cloying and it
panders too much, but at least there's some life in it.
In this one, Sandler goes back to his role as the aw-shucks, loveable loser.
Redemption comes in the form of his niece and nephew, who he gets to babysit for
a week, and who end up teaching him the importance of . . . y'know, important life
stuff. The same stuff he learns in every movie.
Skeeter (Sandler) is a handyman at a ritzy hotel - which used to be owned by his
father, but in a much smaller, more modest form - who is taking care of Bobbi
(Laura Ann Kesling) and Patrick (Jonathan Morgan Heit) while his sister
(Courteney Cox), an elementary-school principal, is out of town looking for a new
job in Arizona. He tucks them into bed, tells them a bedtime story and, lo and
behold, certain parts of the story (only the parts the kids make up, much to
Skeeter's chagrin) end up coming true the next day.
After gumballs inexplicably start raining from the
sky one day - just like in the story - the filmmakers gently give us a rational
explanation for the event. We are nudged toward the conclusion that bits of
serendipity are pushing Skeeter toward what has been his destiny all along.
The filmmakers' biggest creative challenge, of course, is putting together the
fantastical setpieces of each story. One is set in the Old West, another in a distant
galaxy, one more in ancient Greece. So they have a lot of sets to play with and
action sequences to create. No one will accuse Adam Shankman of being a great
director, but he does a nice job blending the childish sensibilities of the kids'
fantasies and Skeeter's adult male fantasies.
Naturally, the characters in the story mirror what's going on in Skeeter's life - and
every person we see in the real world has some sort of role in every story. Even
the annoying CGI-enhanced hamster. There's the owner of the hotel, Barry
Nottingham (Richard Griffiths); his daughter, Violet, a Paris Hilton-type (Teresa
Palmer); and most surprisingly, Guy Pearce as Nottingham's right-hand man and
future son-in-law, Kendall - who also, as it turns out, becomes Skeeter's arch-rival.
Needless to say, Kendall is sickeningly arrogant
and uptight, a perfect contrast to Skeeter's down-to-earth, happy-go-lucky persona.
Oh, and of course there's the requisite Rob Schneider cameo. Because we just
couldn't live without that.
The director, Shankman, is coming off his best work, last year's Hairspray. Then
again, he still has to atone for Cheaper By the Dozen 2, Bringing Down the House
and The Wedding Planner.
As for Sandler, he's tried to branch out more in recent years - first with P.T.
Anderson's great Punch-Drunk Love, again with James L. Brooks' Spanglish and
Mike Binder's Reign Over Me and next year with Judd Apatow's upcoming Funny
People. There is better work to be done; hasn't he done enough of this to have
satisfied his demographic for long enough?
The most appropriate comparison to Bedtime Stories is 2006's Night at the
Museum . . . only without the great Ricky Gervais cameo. It's passable
entertainment, it gets the job done for the kids, we can all get behind the message.
But at the end of the day, it's just another holiday movie that no one will
Read more by Chris Bellamy