Disney and Adam Sandler teamed up last Christmas on a comedy that wasn’t that funny. That’s not really anything new for either Disney or Sandler, so I guess we shouldn’t be surprised. Their unfunny movie is coming to Blu-ray and you should avoid it if possible.
Rather than blaming star Adam Sandler for the lousy family-friendly Disney comedy Bedtime Stories, I’m going to point my ire at director Adam Shankman. It’s becoming increasingly clear that Hairspray was a fluke and that Shankman is going to be battling Brett Ratner for the title of worst director in Hollywood for years to come. He takes a pretty clever premise with a decent cast and turns it into dreck suitable for the under-10 set and no one else.
Sandler moves off his PG-13 pedestal and aims directly for the whole family (rather than just the teen boys) by playing Skeeter Bronson, a hotel handyman in Los Angeles. Skeeter dreams of running the hotel as General Manager (who doesn’t?), since he grew up there when his father owned the place. His sister, Wendy (Courteney Cox), has left the hotel world behind and is a single mom to two adorable kids (Jonathan Morgan Heit and Laura Ann Kesling). She begs Skeeter to watch the kids, who he barely knows, while she goes to Phoenix on a job interview. Since she’s not too sure about Skeeter, Wendy also asks her friend, the uptight Jill (Kerri Russell), to check in from time to time.
Since the kids are not allowed to watch TV, Skeeter entertains them by making up “bedtime stories.” This allows all the characters to show up in medieval times, ancient Rome, the old West, or outer space as they act out the stories. Skeeter finds that the next day, whatever happened in the story then happens to him in real life. Unfortunately, it’s the kids who determine what occurs in real life, not Skeeter. So he can’t seem to make it work in his favor, but hilarity abounds! Not really.
The jokes and set pieces are surprisingly unfunny. When I saw this in theater, even the younger kids weren’t laughing much at the humor and physical comedy. The movie tries to make a star out of “Bugsy,” the kid’s pet hamster with exaggerated bug eyes. He shows up everywhere and is often given unfunny cut-aways in different scenes, but it feels incredibly forced. He’s just not that funny. Like most of the rest of the movie.
In addition to the stories and their real life echoes (which are never explained as random coincidences or supernatural intervention), Skeeter deals with his growing attraction to the polar opposite Jill, his desire to win the General Manager’s job from the smarmy Kendall (Guy Pearce), a false start romance with the hotel owner’s socialite party girl daughter (Teresa Palmer), a little extra comic relief from his hotel waiter buddy (Russell Brand), and plans to tear down the school where Jill and Wendy work to build, coincidentally, the hotel where Skeeter wants to be General Manager. Wow, what are the odds? It’s a little too much extra, but, as usual, if there was a little more funny in the mix, it wouldn’t matter.
It’s admirable that Sandler is trying to branch out a little and do something besides the same old idiot who appeals to your sixteen year old son or brother. Now he wants to appeal to your 10 year old daughter, too. He doesn’t, though. He’s brought down by Adam Shankman’s “comedy” curse. Maybe next time Sandler dips his toe in the family comedy waters, he’ll bring along a better director.
Bedtime Stories on Blu-ray is being released is an impressive sounding “Three-Disc Collection.” However, as is often the case lately, those three discs just hold the movie in different formats. In addition to the Blu-ray, you also get a copy of the movie on DVD, and an electronic copy to put on your portable media player. I like this willingness to recognize that some people might have places they want to watch the movie, like in the car, where they don’t have Blu-ray, so I have no problem with this package. I just wish they wouldn’t make people think the “Three-Disc Collection” means tons of extras. There are not many extras in this release and they all exist solely on the Blu-ray disc.
The longest extra, taking up about 10 minutes of the 30 minutes total, are the deleted scenes. There is nothing particularly interesting, although a musical number by Guy Pearce introducing a new hotel concept is entertaining in a bizarre way. The usual “blooper reel” lasts a little longer than you typically see, about seven minutes. It even includes a couple of interviews on things like how funny Adam Sandler is on set. I prefer it when it’s just the screw-ups and blown lines, maybe set to music.
There are three featurettes and are aimed primarily at the younger target audience. “Until Gravity Do Us Part” is four minutes on the outer space fantasy. The visual effects team talks about how they filmed it to look like Guy Pearce and Adam Sandler were battling in zero gravity using a combination of wires and CGI. A lot of interesting behind-the-scenes footage is in this extra, but it’s still presented in a way that is simple and enjoyable for younger kids as well.
There is also a five minute featurette on the two kid actors who play Skeeter’s nephew and niece. They don’t cover the reason that all actors under 12 have three names these days, but they do have intereviews on how great the kids are and show them having fun on the set with Sandler and Russell Brand. The final extra is called “It’s Bugsy” and tries to make you think Bugsy the hamster was a “breakout star” from the movie. I won’t say he’s more like the movie’s Jar-Jar, but he’s certainly farther down that path than Disney wants to admit.
The Hi-Def experience for this movie probably isn’t that necessary. Although it does look and sound great. The extras are pretty so-so, which makes them a step up from the movie itself, which is not really worth watching. Your Blu-ray dollar is much better spent on Disney product for your family.