Movie review: “Bedtime Stories”

After watching the first four episodes of Prison Break (Fox.com) (Season 1 – yeah, I know, I know, we’re WAY behind the rest of the world) yesterday, we wanted to swing the pendulum the other way, so to speak. Although I can appreciate the clever twists and turns of the plot in PB, most of the characters – as well as the prison setting – are violent and brutal. Sitting through the fourth episode this morning left me feeling rather wound-up and tense.

So that’s how we ended up watching Bedtime Stories (2008), described as a “family-fantasy-comedy” (Wikipedia, see also Internet Movie Database), which was the complete antithesis to PB.

Skeeter Bronson (played by Adam Sandler) is the son of Marty Bronson (Jonathan Pryce), who used to run a quaint little family motel in the 1970s. Unfortunately, he was not a good businessman; facing bankruptcy, he sold his motel to the greedy Barry Nottingham (Richard Griffiths – also known as Mr Dursley by Potterphiles), who promptly demolished the place and constructed a massive hotel in its stead. Barry had also promised Marty, that his son Skeeter would become the manager of said hotel. Of course, this doesn’t happen. Nonetheless, he does keep Skeeter on as janitor and general dogsbody. Poor chap.

One day, Barry announces that he is intending to construct a brand-new, even more humungous hotel, and that his future son-in-law, Kendall (Guy Pierce – last seen as the famous escapologist Harry Houdini in Death Defying Acts, in which he looked far more dashing, even hunky!) will be appointed as its manager. Skeeter, somehow still labouring under the illusion that he might become manager, is devastated.

Around about the same time, Skeeter’s repressed and repressive sister Wendy (Courtney Cox), the principal of a school in the neighbourhood, has to head off to Arizona for a job interview. She asks Skeeter to babysit her two truly adorable children – Patrick (Jonathan Morgan Heit) and Bobbi (Laura Ann Kesling) – during the night, while her best friend and responsible fellow-teacher Jill (Keri Russell) will look after them during the day. Surprisingly, Skeeter doesn’t know how to deal with the kids, and they don’t know what to make of him either.

The first evening, however, they ask him to tell them a bedtime story, and that’s where the magic begins. Each night, he makes up a story, incorporating himself, the children and other people in their lives as characters and putting them in all kinds of settings (medieval times, an old-style Western, Greek or Roman times, and sci-fi/outer space). The two children enthusiastically add their own crazy ideas to the mix.

On the day after each bedtime story, much to Skeeter’s surprise, elements of the story ‘come alive’ in his own life. Once he realises what is happening, he tries to manipulate each bedtime story so that it goes in the direction he wants. Of course, this doesn’t exactly work out as expected.

Although I really liked the idea of fantasy and reality intersecting in this way, I thought it was a pity that they went over-the-top so frequently. OK, I know, it’s kind of inevitable with Adam Sandler that there’ll be plenty of slapstick and tomfoolery and really stupid jokes and absurdity, and I’m sure that kids will laugh uproariously at it all. But it really became tiresome after a while.

Light-hearted family entertainment – just don’t expect too much. It’s Disney, after all. 🙂

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