It seems that lately, when vulgar comic actors pump out a few duds in their genre of choice, a safe family picture is lurking around the corner, much like your friendly neighborhood smack dealer. With cash-filled wheelbarrows, a half thought out script that would be direct-to-video territory without a big name, and a chance at a career resurrection, these actors seem more than willing to oblige. Their smack is cash. Cold, hard cash.
Eddie Murphy certainly showed he was easily hooked, going from raunchy flicks to sweet and innocent 'Dr. Doolittle' fare. Bob Saget was a foul mouthed comedic before turning sugary sweet for 'Full House' (and has since reverted, thank you!). Chris Rock, Wanda Sykes, Bernie Mac, and Sacha Baron Cohen have all taken family friendly voice roles in animated flicks, while Whoopi Goldberg and Richard Pryor both sold their souls for big bank rolls. The man most addicted, has to be Tim Allen, who seems to be the sole property of Disney/Buena Vista.
The point of all this conjecture? Adam Sandler. After hitting the scene with a raunchy comic act that spawned a few hit compact discs, and early foul mouthed, ill tempered roles that became his trademark, Sandler hit one hell of a brick wall, putting out dud after dud. The safe family flick was sure to be in the cards ('Eight Crazy Nights' doesn't count, as that is a work of his own), and lo and behold, 'Bedtime Stories,' a movie that is more flimflam than film.
The story is pretty straight forward, ironically something a child could dream up. Skeeter Bronson (Sandler) and his sister Wendy (Courteney Cox) are children of Marty Bronson (Jonathan Pryce), a friendly and fun hotel owner who is big on personality, but small on good business. When he is forced to sell the hotel to Barry Nottingham (Richard Griffiths), he is promised that, one day, Skeeter will manage the hotel, if he proves he can handle it.
Flash forward to Skeeter, the adult, a handyman for the Nottingham hotel who's a lot like the used gum under a table, he's long since used, just covering a crack. When Wendy loses her job as a local school principal, she's forced to seek employment elsewhere. Conveniently, she feels the only work she can find is out of state, so she taps the child-inept Skeeter to watch over her two children, Patrick (Jonathan Morgen-Heit) and Bobbi (Laura Ann Kesling), who are both full of dreams and imagination, much like Skeeter once was.
The magic happens when Skeeter begins to tell them bedtime stories, and the events from the fables start coming to life. He begins to feel it his destiny to get with Violet (Teresa Palmer), Nottingham's wild daughter, and girlfriend to Kendall (Guy Pierce), the man promoted to run the next in the series of Nottingham hotels, a job that was once promised to Skeeter. Can Skeeter find the will to step up and prove himself worthy of the job, or will it takee the random and wild ideas of the children to make it happen?
The premise is simple, but obviously not very well thought out. More importantly, the entire film is beyond predictable. You know what will happen at every twist and turn in the road long before it will matter, as the dominoes are set up so far ahead you can't help but want to knock them down early and be done with it. I suppose one could say that "this is a children's film. It isn't meant to be deep, or difficult to figure out," and I would have to agree, but I believe that there are good films of this nature out there, that can appeal to both child and adults alike.
While I've always had a place in my heart for Sandler's inane brand of comedy, I just couldn't bring myself to laugh very often with this one. I found one real laugh out loud moment, and it was a throwaway, with a book title in Wendy's ultra-safe environment home entitled "The Organic Squirrel Gets a Bike Helmet." That's it. Really. Every other joke is wasted, or performed in such a manner that it's more likely to draw grimaces than smiles, let alone giggles.
Character development is non-existant, as the writers obviously wanted to "wish" it upon the characters in the film -- much like the children do for the stories -- rather than actually writing a tale that's both coherent and sensical. Kendall is the obvious baddy, with his intentions for Violet never clear, and a storyline with Aspen (Lucy Lawless), a mean receptionist, that doesn't quite make sense. Is Kendall cheating? Is Aspen just his nefarious partner? Little is ever explained, and that's the biggest problem with 'Bedtime Stories.'
I know, I'm cutting the head right off of this film, and seeing the forest for the firewood rather than the trees. The hardass in me wants to obliterate this film at every turn, but it's tough to hate it too much, for one reason alone: Bugsy, the bug-eyed guinea pig that steals every single scene he's in. He is just beyond adorable, with his cute little squeaks and noises (not all natural to guinea pigs, but I'll let that slide), and his off kilter bug eyes are just too darned adorable. I could imagine an entire line of sequels focusing on this little guy. Perhaps we'll get that, based on how Disney seems creates shows and sequels from almost every character they create these days.
Alas, one beyond cute guinea pig could not save this movie, no matter how awesome he was. This film falls victim to itself early and often, with Sandler playing it safe, so you know better than to expect expletive-laden diatribes or ol' fashioned freak outs from this performance. The talents of both Guy Pearce and Russell Brand ('Forgetting Sarah Marshall') are utterly wasted, as were the last 99 minutes of my life. 'Bedtime Stories' is family friendly, more specifically kid friendly, but it gives us adults a few crude gestures best not mentioned here.
As dim and predictable as 'Bedtime Stories' proved to be, the video department certainly is no bore. With a 2.35:1 framed 1080P AVC MPEG-4 encode, the film looks darn near perfect.
The entire film is baked with bright colors, from the moment the pop-up book opening hits the screen, until it closes the story, with only a few hiccups in between. The film is so colorful and textured that a few times it looks like a Pixar film (and that's a compliment). Contrast is spot on, flesh tones are near perfect, and the entire picture has a fantastic three dimensional feel. The black levels are respectable, as well. Detail runs high, with Sandler's scruffy stubble and curly mane always looking quite crisp, while even minute dust particles floating around a few scenes were easily distinguishable.
While the colors are bright, there are a few moments that look just a bit off, such as the first sequence when the children are put to bed and their hair turns totally flat and dull, borderline miscolored. Even Sandler's black uniform looks brown. This effect is short lasting, and only pops up a few times in the film, but it's a bit odd. There was also the moment with the mock campfire, where shots on every character, save for Sandler's, are sharp and clean, while close ups on him are grainy and a bit fuzzy, just a bit inconsistent. These are small issues in an otherwise blemish free video presentation, giving 'Bedtime Stories' a knock out video score that it has most definitely earned.
The audio for 'Bedtime Stories' isn't far behind, with a DTS HD Master Audio 5.1 track that is active and clean (much like the humor for the film), though a bit underwhelming. Much like a real life bedtime story, the sound design for the film isn't loud or boisterous but rather whimsical. Bass levels stay quite low, accenting scenes rather than defining them, with no rumble to be found. This is, after all, a kid flick.
The film, from the get-go, is accented with a surround presence filled with score and atmospheric effects. The neighborhood these children live in sounds like it borders a forest, as it's that full of bird chirping and random activity. The kitchen in the hotel shares the same active design, with pans and trays clanging and banging constantly. This film sounds a hundred times more lively than the film actually is. There's a great balance as well, with even the soft guinea pig squeaks and purrs coming out clear, despite their quiet nature. There is a wide dynamic range, with high pitched sounds in the score, or the zaps of young Skeeter's space gun registering far higher in pitch than the middle of the road sound. A fantastic track, limited by the nature of the film itself.
Every extra from the DVD is included in high definition on this Blu-ray. The packaging is in a regular thickness case, unlike the similarly three disc release of 'Wall-E.' There is an insert that includes a Disney Movie Rewards Code, for those who are into that sort of thing. The Digital Copy is not included in the standard DVD edition, though it is found on the two disc "Special Edition." Last item of note: There is a fancy embossed slipcover housing the package that looks quite nice.
I don't recall ever having bedtime stories being told to me when I was a youth. Perhaps that's why I'm such a surly, unimaginative jerk (that's more than likely just one of numerous theories). But some kids have parents who will sit them down every night and read them tales, or even make them up on the fly to soothe them to sleep. In more modern times, all parents need to do is pop in a copy of 'Bedtime Stories,' as it is more than likely to subdue even the rowdiest of beast children into a quiet slumber. A brilliant transfer and quite decent sound mix are wasted here. To quote the tag line "Believe in happy endings," I'm just happy it ended.