by Eric Sloss, Writer
When you think of Adam Sandler, family comedies do not come to mind. Most of his characters have ranged from angry immature men to angry immature men. He has a comfort zone and it has treated him right over the years. Acclaimed director Paul Thomas Anderson played off this persona to great effect in the vastly underrated “Punch-Drunk Love”. In “Bedtime Stories”, he dials down the persona to good effect.
Adam is Skeeter Bronson, a hotel handyman whose father was a hotel executive. Rich hotel owner Barry Nottingham (Richard Griffiths) has plans to build a new luxury hotel. Skeeter desperately wants to run this new venture because he feels he is qualified with all the years he has lived in the current hotel. His rival to this position is the scheming Kendall (Guy Pearce). Kendall is one of those guys who would do anything to get ahead. Nottingham has a daughter named Violet (Teresa Palmer) who is wooed by Kendall for this soul purpose. Violet is clearly a caricature of Paris Hilton.
Kendall wins the job over Skeeter. Skeeter is naturally crushed and visits his sister Wendy (Courteney Cox) and her two kids Bobbi (Laura Ann Kesling) and Patrick (Jonathan Morgan Heit). To call Wendy anal would be an understatement. She bakes cakes that are more plant than flour. She buys them books that are geared toward being politically correct than fun teaching tools. The kids are clearly hampered by the strict nature of their mother. This all changes when Wendy asks Skeeter to look over the kids at night for a whole week. Wendy is going out of town to look for a job. Skeeter is at first reluctant, but is relieved that he doesn’t have them for the whole day. The day shift would be handled by Wendy’s friend Jill (Keri Russell).
Skeeter has no idea what to do with these kids, so he starts telling them these fantastic and fanciful bedtime stories. Skeeter incorporates some of his life into these stories, so the characters are made up of real people. The kids finally seem engaged in something and they add a little to each story. Each time there is a revision, it shows up on the screen. The movie works best in these scenes. It is fun to see that Skeeter comes up with stories in the Wild West or ancient Roman times or even a futuristic story.
A strange thing though starts to happen to Skeeter a day after these stories. Various parts of the stories start happening for real to Skeeter. Much of it can be written off as coincidence, but enough of it could be magic at work. After one such time, Skeeter gets a chance to pitch a hotel idea against the villainous Kendall.
There is nice supporting work from Russell Brand as Skeeter’s best bud Mickey. Brand just has a way about him that makes you crack a smile just seeing him on the screen. He was one of the best things in “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” as the lascivious lead singer of a rock band. In “Bedtime Stories” he has a sleep disorder that is used to great comic effect.
“Bedtime Stories” doesn’t break any new ground in the family comedy arena. A lot of it is predictable. Sandler was wise to dial down his behavior and make his character more approachable. “Bedtime Stories” turns out to be a nice harmless film that has a good message about using your imagination. It will keep the kids entertained and has enough good bits for adults to enjoy.