January 5, 2009

Movie Review: Bedtime Stories

bedtimestories1_largeAs Adam Sandler moves into his forties, it seems to be becoming just a bit more difficult for him to continue playing the man-child characters that aided him in his rise to fame from Saturday Night Live through his film output through the 1990's. It appears that the days of Happy Gilmore, Billy Madison, and The Water Boy are behind him. Since the year 2000 Sandler is still a comedy mainstay, but there are more attempts to broaden the comedic experience. This expansion can be seen in films like Punch Drunk Love, Spanglish, and Click. His latest film seems to combine the two stages of his career, the early man-child roles and his current attempts at branching out. The result is a mixed bag at best, but hardly a failure and will provide fine entertainment for younger audience members while the adults can pick out elements of the Sandler they knew from back in the day.

bedtimestoriespic2In 1995 Sandler made his solo debut as leading man. The movie was Billy Madison and almost single-handedly heralded the arrival of Sandler as a box office draw. Since then, Sandler has continually proven to be a hit on the big screen, and that does not appear to be changing now. However, his latest film is decidedly more family friendly, which is not altogether a bad thing to do.

I must admit that I initially had not planned on seeing Bedtime Stories, but the time availed itself and I decided to change my plans and was able to squeeze in a screening. I am glad I did. It surely does not challenge the top films in his catalog, but it will put a smile on your face.

Bedtime Stories tells a simple tale of believing in yourself and others, and it is not hard to guess what direction the tale will take. It seeks to tell that there are happy endings, although they are not always a foregone conclusion as so many fairy tales would have you believe. The movie is interesting beyond that, in that it seems to be folding back on his earlier career, specifically, it brings to mind strong memories of the previously mentioned Billy Madison.

bedtimestoriespic10In the earlier film Sandler plays the titular character, an underachieving, lazy, do-nothing son of a hotel tycoon. His father wants him to take over the company, but Billy never got a proper education, shows no drive, and is not suited to the task. In order to step into the shoes his father wants him to, he must go back to school and pass all of the grades through high school during a single school year. If that is not enough, he also has to face off with the evil butt-kisser that will get the position should he fail, Eric Gordon (played by Bradley Whitford). Add a couple of children and a more fantasy sided slant and you turn Billy Madison into Bedtime Stories.

In Bedtime Stories, Sandler plays Skeeter, the son of a man (Jonathan Pryce) who ran a modest hotel in Las Vegas. They live in the hotel, along with Skeeter's older sister, Wendy (Courteney Cox). Unfortunately, he was more of a dreamer than he was a businessman, and rather than go under, he sells the hotel to the wealthy Bary Nottingham (Richard Griffiths), with the promise that one day Skeeter would run the hotel.

Years pass, and the adult Skeeter is employed by the hotel, but as the handyman. He has never had the opportunity to run the place. Times are changing and Nottingham is moving the hotel to a new, larger location and he needs someone to run it. That person is Kendall (Guy Pearce), the smarmy butt-kisser dating the boss's daughter. At the same time, Skeeter learns that his sister is leaving town for a week and he is to keep an eye on her two young children.

bedtimestoriespic8Initially Skeeter is apprehensive, but with some encouragement from unkempt waiter Mickey (Russell Brand) he gets into the swing of things. In particular, he seems rather adept at spinning bedtime tales. This is when things get strange, the kids add their own elements to the stories, after which Skeeter finds them becoming reality (like the gumball raindrops in the trailer). He tries to spin the stories in such a way that they impact his life, however he cannot bank on how they present themselves.

This is a family Disney film, and being such it is pretty easy to tell where it is going to end up. The best thing to do with this type of film is to just enjoy it for what it is, safe family entertainment. When viewing from this perspective, I found it rather easy to enjoy. It is not great by any stretch, but it is not bad in any offensive manner. It is the kind of movie that is competently made and has such a sweet disposition that kicking it and dragging it down seems to be a useless exercise in cinematic elitism.

It is true that the story does not explain how anything happens, characters do not have terribly strong arcs, or are underused, but overall it is a simple, smile inducing film that people of any age can enjoy. I did like seeing Keri Russell on the screen and wish that she had more high profile work, especially in the wake of Waitress. Courteney Cox-Arquette did not have a lot to do, but her character seemed to be a direct descendant of her Friends persona. As for Sandler, he does a fine job playing a combination of familiar Sandler-style characters.

Bottomline. I would not recommend rushing out to see this at once, but if you have children and are looking for a something to see on the big screen with them, this will fill the bill. I enjoyed it, warts and all. Just do not hope for an explanation of why things happen the way they do.

Mildly Recommended.


Post a Comment