But the other part of Sandler's "oeuvre" consists of movies like Spanglish and Punch-Drunk Love -- odd hybrids of broad humor and quirk -- and toned-down, frothy mainstream comedies like Click and Bedtime Stories. It would be unfair to accuse Sandler of selling out his artistic vision in these films -- not only because Little Nicky wasn't art, but because the non-manic goofiness of Bedtime Stories may be closer to the real Sandler. And with some script consulting help, someday the real Sandler might make a really good film. Bedtime Stories isn't it, but at least it's mostly aimed in the right direction.
Sandler is underachiever Skeeter Bronson, who grew up in a retro LA motel owned by his late father, an unsuccessful dreamer who sold out to hotel magnate Barry Nottingham (Richard Griffiths). Skeeter hangs around as handyman, but his life is shaken up when his sister, uptight supermom Wendy (Courteney Cox, an obvious casting move), loses her job as a school principal when her school is closed to make way for (amazing coincidence) said magnate's new hotel. Wendy asks Skeeter and her crunchy-granola friend Jill (Keri Russell) to babysit her two children for a week so she can look for a new job.
Like every nanny since Mary Poppins, Sandler wins over the suspicious, but adorable, children with his bedtime stories. At first, the stories seem like silly digressions in which Skeeter imagines himself a medieval knight, western hero, etc. (brought to life with extravagant special effects) but soon he notices that episodes in the stories start coming true in his life. As the week progresses, Skeeter's life becomes a chance at a real fairy tale as he gets a second chance to wrest the hotel from Nottingham and his sycophantic minion (Guy Pearce).
The disparate cast of Bedtime Stories embrace the silliness willingly, probably hoping the similar magic ride enjoyed at the box office by Disney's last froth, Enchanted, will happen again. Griffiths has fun with the stock rich-eccentric role (the character is even a germaphobe, one of many unoriginal ideas rehashed in Bedtime). And Russell plays her role to perfection, suggesting that A-list status for her is coming.
To say Bedtime Stories is uneven is the same as saying that it's an Adam Sandler movie. But it's not bad, and with a few changes it could have been a lot better. The filmmakers are obviously trying to make a sweet, uplifting movie, so there are only a couple of fart jokes, but why do there have to be any? (Unless Disney goes the way of Bear Stearns, apparently kids' movies are always going to have fart jokes.) And some of the one-liners making fun of Wendy's environmental purism are funny, but Hollywood's frequent green-bashing is getting old, and seems increasingly out of touch. (Apparently Prius drivers are the only people in America it's OK to make fun of, except for germaphobes.) But Bedtime Stories is mostly tolerable and occasionally even funny, which counts for a lot these days.
The happy ending is even sillier and more unrealistic than it ought to be, especially coming after an earlier false ending which is realistic and plausible. That, coupled with the fact that there is not a lot of good news in the country right now, makes Bedtime Stories seem even more trivial. But Sandler's innocence about what goes on in the real world is sort of charming, and so is his willingness to make mainstream comedies that are slightly offbeat. Hopefully he'll make a complete movie one day -- as well-meaning and well-acted as Bedtime Stories, but with the verisimilitude to make Sandler's fairy tales seem like they really could come true.
Run time: 99 mins
In Theaters: Thursday 25th December 2008
Box Office USA: $110.0M
Box Office Worldwide: $212.4M
Distributed by: Walt Disney Pictures
Production compaines: Walt Disney Pictures, Happy Madison Productions, Gunn Films
Contactmusic.com: 3 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 25%
Fresh: 27 Rotten: 81
IMDB: 6.1 / 10
Director: Adam Shankman
Screenwriter: Matt Lopez, Tim Herlihy
Starring: Adam Sandler as Skeeter Bronson, Keri Russell as Jill, Guy Pearce as Kendall, Courteney Cox as Wendy, Lucy Lawless as Aspen, Teresa Palmer as Violet, Russell Brand as Mickey, Aisha Tyler as Donna Hynde, Kathryn Joosten as Mrs. Dixon, Carmen Electra as Hot Girl, Jonathan Pryce as Marty Bronson, Richard Griffiths as Barry Nottingham, Jonathan Morgan Heit as Patrick, Laura Ann Kesling as Bobbi, Nick Swardson as Engineer, Allen Covert as Ferrari Guy, Tim Herlihy as Young Barry Nottingham, Thomas Hoffman as Young Skeeter, Abigail Droeger as Young Wendy, Melany Mitchell as Young Mrs. Dixon, Andrew Collins as Young Mr. Dixon, Julia Lea Wolov as Hokey Pokey Woman, Dana Goodman as Hokey Pokey Woman, Sarah G. Buxton as Hokey Pokey Woman, Catherine Kwong as Hokey Pokey Woman, Lindsey Alley as Hokey Pokey Woman, Blake Clark as Biker, Bill Romanowski as Biker, Paul Dooley as Hot Dog Vendor, Johntae Lipscomb as Birthday Party Kid, Johntae Lipscomb as Birthday Party Kid, Mikey Post as Angry Dwarf, Sebastian Saraceno as Gremlin Driver, Seth Howard as Cubby the Home Depot Guy, Jackie Sandler as Lady Jacqueline, Sadie Sandler as Sweetest Medieval Girl of All Time, Valerie Gervickas as Teacher, Debbie Lee Carrington as Booing Goblin, Billy Tyler as Big Hairy Guy on Beach, Lorna Scott as Secretary, Annalise Basso as Tricia Sparks, Shu Lan Tuan as Luau Waitress, Jonathan Loughran as Party Guest, Robert Harvey as Party Guest, Mike Andrella as Truck Driver, J.D. Donaruma as Nottingham Pool Waiter, Jon Schueler as Nobleman, Denverly Grant as Lady at Fountain, Rob Schneider as Chief Running Mouth / Pickpocket, JT Alexander as Pedestrian (uncredited), Nahid Azami as Protesting Mom (uncredited), Veronica Bennett as Greek Goddess (uncredited), Pete Brown as Claudius Falisimus (uncredited), Amanda Burrill as Jogger (uncredited), Gina Cantrell as West Side Story Showgirl #2 (uncredited), Betsy Hammer as Tambourine Player Medieval Band (uncredited), Taylor Hardick as Student (uncredited), Nick Hermz as Paparazzi (uncredited), Rodrick Hersh as Rabbi (uncredited), Austin Honaker as A Spaceball (uncredited), Mark Hunter as Daft Alien (uncredited), Dani Jacoby as Western Girl (uncredited), Danni Katz as Party Girl (uncredited), Alina Kaufman as Party Guest (uncredited), Waymond Lee as Coliseum / Space Station Vendor (uncredited), Heather Morris as Dancer (uncredited), Louis Riviere as Roman Peasant (uncredited), Nicole Sciacca as Damn Yankees Girl (uncredited), Arne Starr as Nottingham Employee / Senator / Cowboy / Spaceman (uncredited), Alex Tyler as Showgirl (uncredited), Kevin Vyce as Businessman #1 (uncredited), Brian Waller as Record Producer (uncredited), Shawna Wesley as Greek Goddess (uncredited)
Writer-director Christopher McQuarrie brings a dark and gritty tone to this larger-than-life franchise. Along with...
With a spectacular setting and two solid actors on-screen, this thriller builds enough solid suspense...
Those bright sparks at Pixar have done it again, taking a fiercely original approach to...
Slick direction and meaty performances may be enough for some viewers, but this boxing drama's...
Loose and impressionistic, this beautifully shot film traces the career of a DJ who pioneered...
Without a single moment of originality, this found-footage horror movie really deserves to be the...
An intriguing premise keeps the audience gripped for about 20 minutes before the movie runs...