DVD Review: “Bedtime Stories”

Written by DVD Reviews, Film

51nzzhyxbbl_ss500_1Bedtime Stories (2009, Disney) purchase from Amazon: DVD | Blu-ray

The most disappointing aspect of watching Adam Sandler’s latest, Bedtime Stories, is how much wasted potential the film has. From an accomplished cast that includes Guy Pearce, Russell Brand, Courtney Cox and Keri Russell, to a director coming off one of the most engaging films of 2007 (Adam Shankman and Hairspray, respectively), to a story idea that is both clever and imaginative, Bedtime Stories should have been the perfect companion to great family films like Night at the Museum and Elf. Instead, this movie feels rushed and half there and Sandler, normally an actor who commits to his roles no matter how ridiculous or outrageous, seems to be sleepwalking through the movie.

A brief introduction gives us Marty Bronson (Jonathan Pryce, also the narrator), a man raising his two children, Skeeter and Wendy, while trying to run his own motel in the heart of Los Angeles, creating a small oasis in the big city. The kids help around the place and it’s a true family-run business. Marty’s dream is for Skeeter to one day take over and run the motel himself. Unfortunately, Marty is terrible with bookkeeping and is convinced to sell the motel to a manipulative businessman named Nottingham.

Cut to the present. Marty has passed away, Skeeter and Wendy do not speak, and Nottingham has transformed the small motel into a high rise hotel for the stars. Despite a promise by Nottingham that Skeeter would someday run the hotel, Skeeter has been relegated to handyman while he watches others get ahead in the world. In case you didn’t figure it out, Sandler plays Skeeter. When Nottingham, somehow forgiven for screwing Skeeter’s dad out of his business, decides he’s going to expand and open a new hotel, he immediately appoints weaselly hotel manager Kendall (Pearce) to come up with the theme for the new place. Skeeter is devastated that Nottingham won’t even consider his ideas.

At the same time, Wendy has grown into an anal retentive elementary school principal. Who better to play her than Courtney Cox, bringing Monica from Friends to life once again? Wendy’s school is closing and she’s suddenly out of a job. Divorced with two cute kids, she has to go to Arizona to find work. In desperation Wendy asks Skeeter, a man she hasn’t seen in two years, to suddenly take responsibility for her son and daughter, Patrick and Bobby, even though Skeeter has a tough time taking care of himself. Skeeter shares babysitting responsibilities with Wendy’s friend, Jill (Russell), and winds up putting the children to bed each night. Since Patrick and Bobby live in a house without television (of course), they rely on bedtime stories to go to sleep. To begin, Skeeter tells a medieval tale about a knight whose story parallels his own life. As he tries to bring the story to an end, Patrick and Bobby insist on adding their own elements to it.

And that’s when the magic begins.

The next day, the portions the children made up for the story come true (to an extent; raining gumballs in the bedtime story become a gumball truck losing its contents on an overpass after a car crash, a red stallion in a western story becomes a red Ferarri, and so on). Most importantly, the children come up with the part of a story in which Skeeter gets to pitch an idea to Nottingham. Bestowed with the opportunity of a lifetime, instead of buckling down and trying to form an idea of his own, Skeeter attempts to manipulate the kids’ stories so that all of his wildest dreams are realized (like winning the hotel job, scoring with Nottingham’s foxy daughter, and making loads of cash). You know the plan is destined to backfire and eventually fate (i.e. a plot contrivance) will intervene, and all will work out in the end. Remember, this is a Disney film.

The premise is a cute one, and I really wanted to like this movie (not just for the bug-eyed guinea pig). Pearce and Lucy Lawless make a fun, diabolical pair, while Keri Russell is still one of the most charming, likable actresses alive (someone PLEASE writer her a romantic comedy NOW). And Russell Brand tamed down to Disney standards is still hilarious. But the plot of the movie is full of holes and the script is pretty darn flaccid. The fantasy stories (which also include a Roman chariot race and an outer space duel) wind being a welcome relief to the story, even though the effects are pretty cheesy. If your kids watch Bedtime Stories, I wager they’ll remember the fantasies more than the rest of the movie.

My biggest beef with Bedtime Stories is how second-rate it looks and feels. Perhaps if this film were made earlier in Sandler or Shankman’s careers it would be passable. But even in the past you could tell Sandler was having fun in his goofy roles. At this point in Sandler’s career, not to mention Shankman’s (he also directed the hit films The Pacifier and Bringing Down the House), you expect a higher quality film. Simply put, you expect more.

The DVD comes with behind the scenes bloopers and a look at the special effects that were done for the movie. Disney has also released a special Blu-ray three-disc combo pack that contains the Blu-ray version of the movie, a standard DVD version, and a digital download copy.

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