Friday, January 2, 2009

Movie Review: Bedtime Stories

The movie opens with a voice-over: Marty Bronson (Jonathan Pryce, who played Elizabeth Swan's father in Pirates of the Caribbean) explains how he started the Sunny Vista motel and the reactions of his two children, Wendy and Skeeter. Wendy is a serious and solemn girl. Skeeter has a wonderful imagination and a sense of adventure. Skeeter loves living in the motel and can imagine nothing better than to run it when he grows up.

Alas, Marty Bronson is no businessman and is forced to sell his motel to his rival, Barry Nottingham (Richard Griffiths). However, he does make Mr. Nottingham promise that his children can live in the motel as long as they want and that Skeeter will have a chance to run it some day. Mr. Nottingham promises and Mr. Bronson signs the contract.

Cut to the present. The modest motel is now an upscale hotel and Skeeter (Adam Sandler) is the maintenance man. He's a good maintenance man, but is clearly not seen as hotel management material. The head concierge is Aspen (Lucy Lawless) who treats Skeeter with disdain. However, he is not intimidated by her and answers her tit-for-tat.

Skeeter has another rival: Kendall (Guy Pearce) who is named as the "Manager Apparent" for Mr. Nottingham's new mega-hotel. Kendall is also dating Mr. Nottingham's daughter, who loves to party and is often photographed coming out of the hottest clubs.

Meanwhile Wendy (Courteney Cox) is going through a bitter divorce. She is the principal of a local school, which is slated to be closed. She has an interview in Arizona and asks Skeeter to watch her two children, splitting the duties with her best friend, Jill. Jill will take the "day shift"--getting the kids to school. Skeeter has them at night, along with their guinea pig, Bugsy.

His first night with them, he realizes he has to do something to entertain them, as Wendy does not have a television and the kids' books are all of the crunchy organic/progressive kind. Skeeter decides to make up a bedtime story, much as his dad with him and Wendy.

The story is a barely concealed sketch of Skeeter's life at the hotel, illustrating all his frustrations. The kids, Bobbi and Patrick, start to get into it and add their own scenes to the story. The story ends with Patrick exclaiming, "And then it rains gumballs!"

Skeeter brushes it off as a bit of childhood whimsy and gets them to bed. However, the next day events follow the narrative of the story pretty closely. It even "rains" gumballs! Skeeter tries to explain this to Jill (Keri Russell), who thinks it is merely coincidence. However, Skeeter tries to take the story in a new direction, one more positive for him. But the kids interrupt, adding their own twists.

The next day, events happen that mimic the story, but only the parts of the story the kids have added.

Meanwhile, Mr. Nottingham has announced a competition between Kendall and Skeeter: whoever comes up with the best theme for the new hotel will become the manager.

And then there's the fate of the school where Wendy is Principal, Jill is a teacher, and the kids are students. Can it be saved?

There is some clever wordplay, reminding me of the Amelia Bedelia stories, where confusion reigns because the same word often has several meanings--especially between a six-year-old and a thirty-something-year-old.

This is a Disney movie, so there's no nudity, no bad language. Several archetypical stories are represented. Discussions of divorce and the impact it has on a child's emotions (the absent dad is mentioned but never seen). I did find it rather odd that Wendy would have to go to Arizona for a teaching job when the Los Angeles Unified School District is the largest in the state. And Principals are covered by California Teachers' Union seniority rules. The only Sandler regular who appears is Rob Schneider and even his character is restrained.

Hubs, DD#1 (who is 22), and DD#2 (who is 15) saw it with me. Our verdict: it's a cute movie, especially suited for grandparents to take the kids during the holidays. I'm not sure, though, which age level/s Disney was aiming for. Bobbi and Patrick appear to be five and six, but I don't think kids that young would get the story. Tweens (11 and 12-year-olds) would probably be bored, especially if they were expecting more typical Sandler craziness. DD#2 didn't like it right off the bat, but thought it was "pretty good" after she thought about it.

Bedtime Stories is not a typical Sandler movie--he's much more restrained, although there are plenty of snarky comments between him and the other adult cast members. I thought there were clever and funny, but then verbal "zingers" are an honored tradition in my family.

We saw this at a matinee--I wouldn't pay full price to see this one. Bedtime Stories might do better in the rental market, either on DVD or cable.

On the March Hare scale: 3.5 out of 5 Golden Bookmarks.

crossposted at The Mad Tea Party

1 comment:

Elizabeth Kathryn Gerold-Miller said...

I saw this at the matinee with my kids, only because The Tale of Despereaux was sold out. I laughed my head off at some of the jokes. So did the kids. I did think the socialite was a little too sexy for a kids' movie; the crossing of her legs in a skimpy little dress reminded me of a scene from a certain Stone movie. Thankfully those little bits were brief, and he went for (and got) the nice girl in the end.