Skeeter is a down on his luck handyman working for his father’s old hotel. The new owner of the hotel promises Skeeter will always have a place there but when it is announced a new hotel would be replacing the old one, Skeeter is passed over as the new general manager. When he gets the opportunity to babysit his sister’s kids, he finds the bedtime stories he tells them begin to come true. He uses this as an opportunity to maneuver himself back into the fight for the management position.
Bedtime Stories is a Christmas film from last year that made its budget back and made a nice profit through its worldwide box office but was not received well by critics. It currently sits at 24% at Rotten Tomatoes and critics call it unoriginal and childish. I wonder how they would see it through the eyes of a child.
The biggest obstacle for Bedtime Stories is to get past the adult comedy styling of Adam Sander because, at its heart, this movie is made for kids. He doesn’t succeed at first as the movie starts off slow and treads on familiar territory. At the core of the plot is a story of a son who longs to take over his dad’s old business but is kept at arm’s length by a man intent on claiming it. This is the same theme we saw in Sandler’s breakout role, Billy Madison. Unlike that movie, Sandler’s character Skeeter is fully capable of running his father’s company, a hotel in California. The opening quarter of the movie sets up the story but drags on, making me wonder if it is as bad as everyone says.
Then the magic happens. This movie is a fairy tale and calls out to the child in the hearts of everyone. When Skeeter was a child, his father told him bedtime stories and transported him to a magical world where anything was possible. As an adult, Skeeter has fallen on his luck and decided there are no happy endings. When his sister has to leave town to look for a new job, Skeeter is asked to watch after her two young children until she returns. Taking a cue from his own childhood, he is able to connect with them through bedtime stories. The first story is a thinly disguised parable of his disappointments in his life. He takes the story in a more hopeful direction and, with the help of the children, gives it a more promising ending. The next day, the changes made to his story come true and he gets the opportunity to achieve the dream of running his father’s old hotel.
The movie then travels through the typical wish fulfillment fantasies of Skeeter with him telling stories where he receives free cars, beautiful women and lots of money. If this was the direction the story was heading it would be an absolute failure. Luckily, the twist is that Skeeter is not determining his own fate. Instead it is the children’s additions to the story that are coming true. Skeeter does not get the fast car but he does save the damsel in distress. When he believes he is going to get the fairest maiden in the land, he gets something very different than he bargained for. Then when the finale comes, Skeeter is forced to step into action and save the day on his own without the magical deus-ex-machina helping along the way.
Sander is solid in the role when he reigns himself in. There are moments of typical Sandler indulgence. The scene when he is stung on the tongue by a bee is a perfect example. The Rob Schneider appearances are an even more glaring obstacle. Other people may bemoan the use of the Guinea Pig with CG eyes but, for the kids, it is a cute addition and something to make them laugh. Finally, the end is a solid moral for a fairy tale story made for children. When you are supposed to be the hero of the story, act like one.
A lot of the plot points are predictable and some are generic crap, aiding in the alleged unoriginality of the story. The kid’s mother doesn’t let them watch TV, play video games or eat any junk food. She is overprotective to a fault and, of course, Uncle Skeeter comes in to corrupt their lives. There is also the romance between Skeeter and a school teacher that doesn’t help the film either. I will admit there are too many moments of generic unoriginality but the movie is a wonderful story for the kids and that is who it was made for anyway.
The special features on this Blu-Ray are crap. There are bloopers and deleted scenes and two short featurettes. The first one looks at the Guinea Pig and the second at the making of the special effects. Also included is a digital copy and – my favorite – a DVD of the film. Most families don’t have a Blu-Ray player in every room of the house (especially the kid’s rooms) and this allows the movie to be seen anywhere. It’s too bad the rest of the special features were so crappy.