Adam Sandler's 'Bedtime Stories': One Big Snooze

Adam Sandler as Skeeter Bronson with animated hampster on his head in "Bedtime Stories." i i

We Know, We're Alarmed, Too: Each new Adam Sandler movie, after all, is its own special kind of trial. Tracy Bennett/Disney Enterprises hide caption

itoggle caption Tracy Bennett/Disney Enterprises
Adam Sandler as Skeeter Bronson with animated hampster on his head in "Bedtime Stories."

We Know, We're Alarmed, Too: Each new Adam Sandler movie, after all, is its own special kind of trial.

Tracy Bennett/Disney Enterprises

Bedtime Stories

  • Director: Adam Shankman
  • Genre: Kids' fantasy comedy
  • Running Time: 99 minutes

Rated PG: Slapstick violence, juvenile humor

Adam Sandler as Skeeter Bronson and Teresa Palmer as Violet in "Bedtime Stories" i i

Deus Ex Machina: It'll take more than flowers for Sandler's Skeeter Bronson to get the girl (Teresa Palmer). Tracy Bennett/Disney Enterprises hide caption

itoggle caption Tracy Bennett/Disney Enterprises
Adam Sandler as Skeeter Bronson and Teresa Palmer as Violet in "Bedtime Stories"

Deus Ex Machina: It'll take more than flowers for Sandler's Skeeter Bronson to get the girl (Teresa Palmer).

Tracy Bennett/Disney Enterprises

A sad-sack hotel handyman gets a new life in Bedtime Stories, thanks to the magical plot twists his niece and nephew insert nightly into his impromptu tales. But the unlikeliest thing about this bland comedy is watching bad-boy Adam Sandler play nice for a PG rating.

The son of a failed motel operator, Skeeter Bronson (Sandler) was once promised a management job by international magnate Barry Nottingham (Richard Griffiths), who replaced the family motel with a high-rise hotel. Instead, Nottingham is grooming junior exec Kendall Duncan (Guy Pearce), whose attitude is almost as imposing as his elaborately swept-back hair.

Skeeter's peeved, but has no plan. So he just does his mundane janitorial tasks and hopes for some sort of celestial intervention. That's what happens, but in a roundabout way.

Skeeter's prim, divorced sister Wendy (Courteney Cox) is the principal of a nearby elementary school. It's about to be demolished, so Wendy leaves town for a job interview. She recruits her brother to watch her kids, who barely know him. Awkwardly at first, Skeeter bonds with Bobbi (Laura Ann Kesling) and Patrick (Jonathan Morgan Heit), and also with their other babysitter: Wendy's pretty friend Jill (Keri Russell), a teacher at the threatened school.

Her slobby sibling's opposite in many ways, Wendy doesn't allow her kids to eat junk food or watch TV. So Skeeter finds himself chewing rice cakes and spinning bedtime yarns. These four tales are all thinly veiled rewrites of Skeeter's own plight, set in medieval times, the Old West, ancient Rome or outer space.

Patrick adds a rain of gumballs to Skeeter's first fable, and the next day, in the real world, that downpour comes true. More intrigued than perplexed, Skeeter tries to manipulate the subsequent tales to win more than gum: a top job with Nottingham and the love of the hotelier's spoiled, sexy daughter (Teresa Palmer). Plus a red Ferrari.

But Skeeter doesn't quite understand how the stories affect his life, leading to disappointment, embarrassment and pratfalls. Ultimately, of course, Skeeter will receive some rewards — and will have grown up sufficiently to prefer what he gets to what he originally wanted.

Innocuous to a fault, the movie means to celebrate imagination, yet offers little that kids (let alone adults) will find fantastical. From the angry dwarf who randomly attacks Skeeter to Bobbi and Patrick's bug-eyed, semi-animated guinea pig, Bedtime Stories is a yawner.

The strangest thing about the movie is that it's set in a Los Angeles where nearly everyone's a Brit, an Aussie or a Kiwi. Not only does Skeeter's best friend (Russell Brand) have a British accent — so does his father (Jonathan Pryce). And yes, that is Lucy "Xena" Lawless behind the check-in desk.

It's understandable that Hollywood turns to the British Empire when casting prestige dramas, but Shakespearean types aren't required for Sandler's first kiddie-oriented flick. Bedtime Stories would work just as well if its star were surrounded entirely by bug-eyed, semi-animated guinea pigs.

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