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ReelTalk Movie Reviews
Once Upon a Time
by Betty Jo Tucker

Telling stories to little children can be such fun! No matter how silly the tale, youngsters love hearing adults put their own spin on a fantasy or adventure saga. By capitalizing on this fact of life, Bedtime Stories succeeds in entertaining its target audience, but leaves many grown-up viewers wondering why more attention wasn’t paid to the script of this latest Adam Sandler effort. Sadly, the movie becomes a series of repetitive situations enhanced by fun special effects, then sabotaged by unfunny dialogue like “Goofy is the new handsome.”

Because Bedtime Stories boasts a great idea concerning stories with key elements that come to life the next day, it’s a shame the whole movie didn’t turn out to be more enjoyable for all age groups.

Sandler plays Skeeter, a hotel handyman who’s competing with the villainous, high-powered Kendall (Guy Pearce) for a top spot in a big hotel. At the same time, he’s agreed to babysit his sister’s (Courtney Cox) two kids while she goes out of town for an important job interview. Not having seen his niece (Laura Ann Kesling) and nephew (Jonathan Morgan Heit) for a very long time, Skeeter has trouble breaking the ice with them. But as soon as he finds out they want him to tell them stories at bedtime, he feels more comfortable, for his father (Jonathan Pryce) used to do the same for him. However, every one of Skeeter’s fantastic stories -- whether set in the Old West or in Rome’s Golden Age or in a sci-fi future -- relates to his desire to triumph over Kendall. Finally, Skeeter even uses the youngsters to help him come up with an idea that will help him win his real-life battle.

In the meantime, Jill (Keri Russell) enters the picture. She’s a friend of Skeeter’s sister who takes care of the kids during the day. Naturally, Jill and Skeeter fall for each other. Unfortunately, the chemistry between Sandler and Russell comes across about as exciting as Jane Austen on tranquilizers.

Sandler tries his best to make Skeeter fun to watch. He does his usual mugging for the camera, talks to a big-eyed guinea pig, and delivers a speech with a swollen tongue, but none of his actions resulted in much laughter from the audience at the screening I attended -- except for the six and  seven-year-olds in attendance. 

Still, I’m glad I saw Bedtime Stories. Why? Because Guy Pearce (Memento) goes so far over the top in a musical number, I thought my eyes and ears were deceiving me. But I couldn’t help loving that scene! Obviously, Pearce is an actor who’s willing to do anything for his craft.    

(Released by Walt Disney Pictures and rated “PG” for mild language, crude humor, and thematic elements.)

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