Eye For Film >> Movies >> Bedtime Stories (2008) Film Review
Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode
Every child dreams of a world where bedtime stories come true. A film where this happens, featuring wide-eyed kids and a popular comedy star, may sound like the perfect festive family treat. Unfortunately, just as the stories in the film don't always play out the way its hero wants them to, the film itself falls dramatically short of expectations.
This story begins with an old man who owns a small motel. Unfortunately he can't balance the books, so he's persuaded to sell it to Mr Nottingham (a delightfully creepy Richard Griffiths), who builds a modern mega-structure in its stead, promising to find top role there for the old man's son. This son is played by one of the most insufferable little brats I've ever had the misfortune to see on celluloid, young Thomas Hoffman. I was relieved when I realised he was only going to be in it for a few scenes, but then he grew up to be one of the most insufferable Adam Sandler characters yet seen.
With Punch Drunk Love, Sandler proved that he can act and that he has the skill to make an antisocial character sympathetic. Here, however, he doesn't even seem to try. Skeeter, the hotel handyman who seeks to exploit the situation when the stories he tells to his niece and nephew start to come true, is never likeable, and he's not much fun, either. Although the film pretends to provide him with a moral arc, he starts out selfish and spiteful and he ends that way, too - all that happens is that he gets better at getting away with it.
With none of the lightheartedness and self-mockery of his recent efforts, like You Don't Mess With The Zohan, this simply becomes an awkward caper about bringing down a cardboard bad guy, with little lessons along the way, like how it's important to suck up to the people who were nasty to you at school.
As Skeeter's best buddy, Russell Brand is even worse - devoid of personality, he has to resort to wearing silly clothes and occasionally shouting at random in an attempt to raise laughs. The kids who play Skeeter's remarkably tolerant young relatives work well enough but don't get much to do. Teresa Palmer plays a pointless Paris Hilton-type character whom the scriptwriters don't really seem to know what to do with, and, well, when you're relying on cameos from Carmen Electra you should know you're in trouble. However, through all of this, accidental heroine Keri Russell (also excellent in the recent The Girl In The Park) holds her head high, playing the straight role with depth and conviction, by far the most interesting thing to watch.
Bedtime Stories is a curious mixture of weak acting, lazy directing, and fantasy scenes on which no expense has been spared, which look as if they've been made by a completely different team. There are moments in this film that will have children gasping with delight. Knights in armour, cowboys and spacemen all get their turn. If only the film had realised its strengths and concentrated on this stuff rather than the boring adult plot about hotel management, kids would have loved it. As it is, it lives up to its title - it's likely to send them to sleep.Reviewed on: 19 Dec 2008