December 25, 2008

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Bedtime Stories (PG)
Adam Sandler offers up an inoffensive bit of family fluff in Bedtime Stories, a very mediocre but not awful comedy.

Skeeter (Sandler) is asked to watch his sister’s (Courteney Cox) kids for a few days and, in a desperate move to entertain these TV-deprived kids, he tells them elaborate bedtime stories. As he figures out (and as the trailer has been telling us for months), whenever they interject something in the story — that it rains gumballs, for example — that thing happens to him the next day (a truck spills open on the overpass above him raining gumballs on the street below). Because he is trying to finagle a promotion at the hotel where he works, Skeeter tries to direct the story in a way that has him besting rival Kendall (Guy Pearce) or winning the heart of the hotel owner’s daughter (Teresa Palmer). But because things in real life don’t work out exactly as he constructs them in the story, the fair maiden he starts to charm turns out to be Jill (Keri Russell), a friend of his sister who is helping him watch the kids.

Rob Schneider appears here, as is apparently required by law in a Sandler movie, and Lucy Lawless has a strangely tiny role (a genuine comic talent, the movie doesn’t seem to know what to do with her here). If you’ve seen the trailer, you’ve seen the hamster with CGI-enlarged eyes — Bugsy, as he’s called, and his well-timed squeaks deliver a sizeable chunk of the movie’s reaction-shot-related humor. None of this is particularly bad — Sandler fans won’t find any of the goofy edginess of his PG-13 movies but families looking for innocuous humor won’t miss it — but Bedtime Stories isn’t particularly good either. The jokes are apparent but they aren’t, for the most part, funny; even moments of should-be zany slapstick just feel sterile. It’s too much CGI crazy eyes, too much high-pitched Sandler jokey voice, way too much non sequitur Russell Brand (who was so excellently strange as a British rocker in Forgetting Sarah Marshall). The whole movie feels like it wants to go to naughty PG-13 places for its humor but is holding back — holding back the naughtiness instead of replacing it with a cleaner kind of silliness. Though inoffensive enough for the whole family, it has neither the charm nor the heart to really entertain moviegoers of any age. C

Rated PG for mild rude humor and mild language. Directed by Adam Shankman and written by Matt Lopez and Tim Herlihy, Bedtime Stories is an hour and 39 minutes long and is distributed by Buena Vista Pictures. It opens in wide release on Thursday, Dec. 25