In the landscape of Hollywood comedy, there are basically two Adam Sandlers. The more recognizable one is the winsome, moronic, little boy in a man's body who always get the girl, the money, and the love of the populace by the end of the film (e.g. Billy Madison; The Waterboy). The other is the petulant, moronic, perpetually horny, teenaged boy in a man's body who always gets the girl, the money, and the love of the populace by the end of the film (e.g. You Don't Mess with Zohan; I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry).
Sandler, like Jim Carrey in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, has tried to expand his repertoire, brilliantly so in Paul Thomas Anderson's Punch-Drunk Love, but his core audience of halfwits, priapic adolescents, and Jewish pot smokers who rightfully adore his "Chanukah Song" have not embraced his more cerebral efforts.
Consequently, Sandler has yet again recreated his self-absorbed, dimwitted, "lovable" loser in what is billed as his first children's film, Disney's Bedtime Stories.
The hero here is a handyman, Skeeter Bronson (Sandler), whose dream is to preside over a hotel that his father once owned, mismanaged, and was forced to sell to a Mr. Barry Nottingham (Richard Griffiths), who happens to be a germaphobic, cretinous magnate of the first scale.
Point of suspense: Can Skeeter convince Nottingham to hire him over suave sleazebag Kendall Duncan (Guy Pearce) as his new hotel manager?
Other point of suspense: Can Skeeter convince his niece and nephew to give up tasteless health food and eat cookies and burgers so they will be popular?
Did anyone at Disney read this screenplay? Data from a 2002 study shows that 15% of American children and teens are obese. Another 15% are considered at risk. And "more than 75% of children ages 6-11 do not eat the minimum of 3 servings of vegetables or 2 servings of fruit daily."
Does McDonald's have Disney in its pocket?
Of course, being politically incorrect is in nowadays, especially in funny comedies. However, Bedtime Stories is seldom funny.
The first half hour or so is dreary and lumpy, its monotony only slightly relieved by the appearance of an adorable guinea pig with ultra-huge eyes appropriately named Bugsy.
From that point on, special effects rule as Skeeter tells his niece and nephew homemade fairy tales that start coming true the following day. Well, at least the parts the kids make up about angry dwarves and gumballs dropping from the sky are realized. Can Skeeter manipulate their creativity to achieve his own aims?
You won't care, because Sandler's heart seemingly isn't in this poorly written offering. Apparently, he's realized he's far too old to play a puerile jerk yet again. His lips might form a smile, but his eyes are tired.
So when his character vows, "I'm like the stink of your feet. I'll always be around," you just might cringe and shout, "Where's Dr. Scholl?"
This side of Sandler we've had enough of. - Brandon Judell
Mr. Judell, who's currently teaching "Contemporary Israeli/Palestinian Cinema" at City College, has written on film for The Village Voice, indieWire, Detour, and dozens of other publications.