The latest comedy from Adam Sandler, which opens Christmas Day, is mostly innocuous and average.
“Bedtime Stories” stars former “Saturday Night Live” funnyman Sandler as Skeeter, a hotel handyman who knows his place. But when his divorced sister, Wendy (Courteney Cox), has to leave town, she needs babysitting help for her two children (Jonathan Morgan Heit and Laura Ann Kesling).
Uncle Buck, er, Skeeter agrees to help. He’s not accustomed to children, but he’s a fast study and learns that they expect some bedtime stories.
Skeeter obliges and tries making up a few yarns, getting some much-needed help from the kids. And in the world of high-concept, wide-release comedies (is there anything else, these days?), elements from the bedtime stories start happening, in one form or another, in Skeeter’s real life.
It’s left to Skeeter to determine why some narrative points translate from the bedtime story to real life, and others don’t. And as Skeeter learns the rules, he begins steering the stories to benefit his own station in life.
All of this is superimposed over a generic plot about Skeeter’s father being forced out of the motel business by a noxious businessman named Nottingham (Richard Griffiths), who’s still around and looking for the next Big Idea in motels.
Nottingham hopes that success will come from his future son-in-law, Kendall (Guy Pearce), but he’s willing to give his handyman Skeeter a shot at hotel glory since Nottingham did, after all, promise long ago to look after Skeeter in the deal that drove Skeeter’s father out of business.
Tossed in is a romantic relationship between Skeeter and Wendy’s friend, Jill (Keri Russell), which proceeds predictably like the rest of the movie.
Add a few bathroom jokes, a big-eyed guinea pig and a comic sidekick (Skeeter’s hotel friend, played by Russell Brand), and the Sandler formula is complete.
“Bedtime Stories” employs some decent special effects as Skeeter and the kids envision tales from outer space, the Old West, medieval times and ancient Greece. Unfortunately, a couple of these trips caricature Native Americans and little people and, sin of all sins for a comedy, just aren’t that funny anyway.
The movie’s Big Message has to do with happy endings and whether they happen in real life. Skeeter has doubts given his state of affairs, but deep down, he wants to believe it’s possible.
The actual performances don’t disappoint, for the most part. Sandler is fine, as are Keri Russell and Courteney Cox. Russell Brand stands out for his over-the-top delivery, but the excellent Guy Pearce as Skeeter’s nemesis seems miscast.
Directed by Adam Shankman and co-written by longtime Sandler scripter Tim Herlihy (“Happy Gilmore,” “The Wedding Singer,” “Mr. Deeds”), “Bedtime Stories” will keep most tweeners amused but leave the parents wishing for “The Wedding Singer.”
Cliff Vaughn is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.
MPAA Rating: PG for some mild rude humor and mild language. Reviewer’s note: The film has a subplot about Wendy’s divorce and whether the kids will see their dad again. Skeeter earnestly tries to calm the kids’ fears and reiterate that the family members and friends currently in their lives will always be there for them.
Director: Adam Shankman
Writers: Matt Lopez and Tim Herlihy
Cast: Skeeter Bronson: Adam Sandler; Jill: Keri Russell; Kendall: Guy Pearce; Nottingham: Richard Griffiths; Mickey: Russell Brand; Aspen: Lucy Lawless; Wendy: Courteney Cox.
The movie’s official Web site is here.