Andy Bockelman: 'Bedtime Stories' is fun family fantasy


— If the family film "Bedtime Stories" features nothing else, it is the first and probably only medieval/Western/gladiator/outer space hybrid movie ever made.

Skeeter Bronson (Adam Sandler) is an average Joe with big dreams; as the maintenance man for the most prestigious hotel in Los Angeles, he is awaiting his big chance to impress the establishment's owner (Richard Griffiths), who took the building over from his father (Jonathan Pryce) when Skeeter was a child. In the meantime, Skeeter also has to assist his divorced sister, Wendy (Courteney Cox), by watching her children, Patrick and Bobbi (Jonathan Morgan Heit, Laura Ann Kesling), while she attempts to find a new job.

His familiarity with his nephew and niece is little, but he manages to win them over with a fanciful tale of heroics starring himself that he crafts with a little input from the two of them - most notably with an ending that involves raining gumballs. Suddenly, Skeeter's life changes drastically when he is given an opportunity for advancement at work and gets caught in a downpour of candy.

The similarities to his bedtime story do not escape him, and he cannot wait to spin another yarn for the kids that will turn out favorably. However, he soon learns that the unusual magic depends on the direction Patrick and Bobbi take the story.

Just like in his recent effects-laden comedy, "Click," Sandler is all over the place, portraying Skeeter and his multiple alter egos. The comedian deserves kudos for being at his most child-friendly ever, even if he is playing a one-note performance all the way.

Keri Russell is sweet as Jill, the woman who captures his heart, additionally making a fine mermaid in one story. Griffiths is delightfully eccentric as hotel mogul Barry Nottingham, a chronic mysophobe who plays the role of royalty in Skeeter's stories.

In both reality and Skeeter's narratives, Teresa Palmer is cute as Nottingham's ditsy daughter, Violet; Guy Pearce and Lucy Lawless are detestable as his underhanded, kowtowing employees; and Russell Brand is hysterical as Skeeter's pal, Mickey, a hotel waiter.

Blending real life and fantasy is not an easy task, and the line between the two gets pretty blurry when an exopthalmic guinea pig named Bugsy is considered more realistic than a cherry red horse named Ferrari. The point being, for a movie that bears such a title, bedtime stories are a rather small part of the larger story.

All of Skeeter's fables are extremely short, and considering the buildup of each, we see little of the parallel existences of Fix-a-Lot the knave or Skeetacus the Roman daredevil - guess who - before we get back to modern day LA. There is nothing wrong with these little vignettes, far from it. The audience is left wanting more and eventually is appeased as the stories come to fruition in the real world, but let's face it: a bulldog with a cold is a poor substitution for a gelatinous creature known as the Booger Monster.

As it is, Skeeter's plot is compelling enough without having to merge with the world of whimsy when the two can stand apart well enough.

With its initial premise, "Bedtime Stories" doesn't quite live up to its limitless potential and expectations, but its undemanding presentation and easygoing silliness will leave everyone sleeping soundly after leaving the theater.


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