BEDTIME STORIES (2008)
Starring Adam Sandler, Keri Russell, Guy Pearce, Russell Brand, Richard Griffiths, Jonathan Pryce, Courteney Cox, Lucy Lawless, Teresa Palmer, Aisha Tyler, Morgan Heit, Laura Ann Hesling, Kathryn Joosten, Allen Covert, Carmen Electra and Paul Dooley.
Screenplay by Matt Lopez.
Directed by Adam Shankman.
Distributed by Walt Disney Pictures. 95 minutes. Rated PG.
For a long time I have been trying to figure out exactly why Adam Sandler movies are so unsatisfying to me – beyond the obvious handicaps that he can’t act and he’s not really funny.
I think the problem is probably so obvious that it was staring me in the face all of the time. Adam Sandler films are a celebration of being an asshole. Be a complete jerk to everyone you meet and you too can find love and the job of your dreams. It’s okay to be a smug, sanctimonious creep – as long as you are the hero.
Take, for example, a throw-away scene early in Bedtime Story. This is actually supposed to be the “meet cute” moment where Sandler’s character of Skeeter meets the saintly teacher character who will eventually fall for his galootish charms. He is in his truck and she points out the fact that he has taken up two parking spots, therefore making her walk an extra block after parking her car. Instead of apologizing – because, yes, that was a very rude thing to do – Skeeter berates her, essentially calling her an uptight tree-hugger.
Anything is okay in Adam Sandler-world as long as it works out for him. Anyone else’s wants or needs really don’t matter.
That’s a wonderful thing to be teaching in a children’s film.
Another important life lesson from Uncle Adam is that if you save a damsel in distress you should expect to be compensated with $100,000,000 or a brand new cherry red Ferrari (“forrrr FRRREEEEEEEEEE!” as Sandler idiotically squeals a few times during the movie).
It’s actually a shame, because while I wouldn’t really want Adam Sandler babysitting my children, Bedtime Stories actually came up with a rather clever children’s film premise that it then mostly squandered.
Sandler plays Skeeter, a janitor at a huge hotel in Los Angeles. His sister has to go for a job interview out of state, so she asks him to watch her children when she is gone. Uncle Skeeter starts telling them bedtime stories, only to find the stories are coming true.
The film never really bothers to explain why this is happening – there is some vague suggestion it has something to do with his father and imagination, but it really isn’t hashed out.
Not too much here is hashed out. The bedtime stories are kind of cute, but rather muddled. They can’t seem to decide what the lessons they want to teach the kids are, so despite the fact that Skeeter wins over the hot teacher, gets a cool new job and learns to love his niece and nephew (and their strange popeyed guinea pig… the weird eyes are just another thing not explained here), he still shows himself to be just as big an ass in the end as he did earlier.
Sandler has a history of hiring actors who are way too good to be in his films and Bedtime Stories continues this streak. Keri Russell follows up her wonderful comeback role in the charming Waitress with the generic love interest character. Guy Pearce (LA Confidential, Memento) literally looks embarrassed to be saddled with playing an amazingly broad and bland bad guy. Russell Brand is given nearly nothing to do… a real shame after his scene-stealing turn as a rock star in Forgetting Sarah Marshall – and still he upstages his clueless star every time they share a scene. The film is narrated by classy British thespian Jonathan Pryce. Even former-Friends star Courteney Cox (who is apparently no longer going by Courteney Cox Arquette) shows up as Sandler’s uptight sister – then again Cox already got slimed by Sandler in The Longest Yard.
Just because Bedtime Stories is aiming at a less demanding audience – kids – that doesn’t excuse it from putting together a story that makes sense and has likable characters. Bedtime Stories may even entertain small children… there is action, junk food and the guinea pig farts s’mores…, but that doesn’t mean it’s good for them.
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2009 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: March 28, 2009.