Skeeter Bronson (Adam Sandler) gets an unexpected shower of gumballs in Disney's Bedtime Stories.
Courtesy of Walt Disney Pictures © 2008
PG - some material may not be suitable for children; some mild rude humor and mild language
December 25, 2008
Adam Sandler, Keri Russell, Guy Pearce, Russell Brand, Richard Griffiths, Teresa Palmer, Lucy Lawless, Courteney Cox, Jonathan Morgan Heit, Laura Ann Kesling, Jonathan Pryce
Screenplay by Matt Lopez and Tim Herlihy; story by Matt Lopez
Walt Disney Pictures
A Happy Madison Production, Gunn Films, and Offspring Entertainment Production
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'Bedtime Stories': The Power of Creativity
By Laura J. Bagby
CBN.com Sr. Producer
Adam Sandler teams up with MTV's seriously funny British comic Russell Brand and screen favorite Keri Russell (Waitress) in what is meant to be a rousingly entertaining family-friendly film.
"I wanted to make sure I did one movie in my career that mothers hug me for," noted Sandler. "This could be it."
Does Sandler hit his family approved mark? I will explain more in depth later, but first, let's get to the quick synopsis.
Handyman Skeeter Bronson (Adam Sandler) hopes to one day own his father's most important legacy – the hotel at which Skeeter works. But when the family falls on hard times, Marty Bronson (Jonathan Pryce) is forced to sell to Mr. Barry Nottingham (Richard Griffiths), an uppity and dishonest businessman, and Skeeter loses his rightful inheritance as hotel manager.
When Skeeter is asked to look after his sister Wendy's (Courteney Cox) kids, Patrick (Jonathan Morgan Heit) and Bobbi (Laura Ann Kesling), while Wendy looks for a new job, he finds his strength in telling bedtime stories that amazingly begin to come true.
With the help of Mickey (Russell Brand), the hotel's room service guy and Skeeter's best friend, and Wendy's girl-next-door teacher friend, Jill (Keri Russell), Skeeter realizes he might just have the power to save the day and get the prizes he truly deserves: ownership of the hotel and the "fairest of them all" girl.
The Stellar Stuff
He's crazy, he's caffeinated, and he just about steals the show – no, I am not referring to Adam Sandler, although Sandler does a great job. (I surprised you, didn't I?) I am referring to Sandler's sidekick, Russell Brand. While Sandler plays a decidely more toned down straight man, which I think is a nice sign of maturity for this real-life father of two, Brand lets his creative kookiness loose.
There is one very small caveat to this wackiness, however. Some parents might need to get prepared for Brand's wardrobe: namely one scene were he dons a grass skirt and coconuts. Thankfully, this is meant to draw laughs and not as a nod to some gay agenda. Moviegoers will quickly realize that Brand's character, Mickey, does in fact like girls.
Beyond some of the belly laughs, I appreciated the silly jabs at old genre conventions. Bedtime gives homage to the Western, the Medieval Fairytale, the galactic space battle â la Star Wars, and the Grecian gladiator scene. Each themed scene tries to pick the most iconic details and then throw in some updated humor. For instance, the Western has Sandler playing the cowboy on a horse saving a damsel in distress. In the gladiator story, Sandler becomes Skeeticus, racing on the floor of the Colisseum in Rome in a speedy chariot dressed in armored gladiator garb, while his lady love looks on from the columned balcony. In the fairytale version, Sandler is Sir Fixalot fighting for the honor of his true love. The story incorporates castles and peasants, lords and ladies, and a beautiful mermaid. And the Star Wars homage piece takes the best of galactic space battles – light sabers, hovering platforms, and even a Jabba lookalike – and pokes fun at the cheesiness of it all.
But I think the real strength of this film is its themes. First, the concept that children should be able to enjoy being kids. Mom Wendy is an uptight woman who doesn't believe in having her kids watch television or eat unhealthy snacks. The kids are rather miserable and their creativity is severely underdeveloped until Uncle Skeeter comes on the scene. As Skeeter begins to attempt the art of storytelling, soon both the kids are joining in and thoroughly enjoying stretching their imaginations to complete the bedtime tales. It is a reminder for each of us that we should never get too old to use those creative giftings God has given us. All work and no play makes for a sad and boring life. Having appropriate play is essential to an enjoyable life. Three cheers for bringing out the whimsical!
Director Adam Shankman is very hopeful that one of the film's takeaways is this very creative element, as he puts it, " the sense that magic can happen when family is together because (a) that is sort of the trigger of it all and (b) the importance of imagination," he said.
Second, chivalry and honor and integrity are not dead, even in the 21st century. While some men might try to manipulate circumstances, utilize beauty, or resort to dishonesty to gain power, prestige, and material possessions, as we see in the characters of hotelier Barry Nottingham, his Paris Hilton-like daughter Violet Notthingham (Teresa Palmer), and her smug and smarmy boyfriend Kendall (Guy Pearce) , Skeeter comes to realize that honesty and doing things right even when it is harder is what counts. Personal sacrifice, taking care of others' needs without having some ulterior motive, and putting courage in action for some greater good than yourself are what Skeeter finally realizes will bring the greater rewards. Man, do we need to see more of this in our male leads!
Third, the film teaches us to take personal responsibility for our destiny. While Skeeter wrongly believes that his life is controlled by outside forces, including his deceased father, his demanding and unappreciative hotel boss, his silly niece and nephew, and even the woman of his dreams, in the end Skeeter realizes that he is the one who makes his life happen. No more excuses; he must take action. It squashes some of those typical depictions of completely bumbling and passive men who just let life happen to them. (Read more on this concept of destiny in the related feature story, 'Bedtime Stories': Destiny at Your Doorstep).
Last, we learn that the one you are truly meant to be with might seem like the least likely choice at first – a person in process who might initially rub you the wrong way – but as that man or woman grows in self-awareness, selflessness, tenderness, and character, that person becomes the woman or man of your dreams. It is evident that honesty, tenderness, and friendship completely wins out over vain beauty and the trappings of power.
The Disappointing Stuff
This is where I think the film falls apart somewhat – the sometimes close-to-the-mark humor. I really could have done without the kids being called "Stinky" and "Smelly", the golden underwear crotch scene in the gladiator story, the mention of the Sir Buttkiss rival (Mom, what is a butt kiss?) in the medieval fairytale, more cleavage and legs than I think is truly PG-rated on the very beautiful Teresa Palmer, and even the gross Jabba the Hut-like snot in the homage to Star Wars story.
I could also have really done without the guinea pig character called Bugsy with the fake bulging eyes and digestive issues, which I thought completely took away from the story and made it more stupid than cute.
However, I am very glad that because of those family friendly parameters, neither Sandler nor Brand went too far with language and suggestiveness.
As Sandler said, "All my friends have kids now. We were excited to be in something that we could play in the house and feel comfortable with our kids seeing."
So, parents, use your wisdom.
The Take Away
Shankman hopes that moviegoers will come away with this positive perspective: "this notion of spending time together, being creative, using your imagination, there are no limits, and there are happy endings," he said.
And I do think those things do come through in the film. I guess I would be happier without the rude humor.
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