After the release of the fun family adventure Inkheart two weeks ago, you may think that there’s not much call for another movie about children’s stories coming to life. But this is a very different take on a similar basic idea, and certainly shouldn’t be written off right away. Where Inkheart opted for thrills and spectacle in a relatively straight, classic fantasy quest, this offering has instead gone for the comedy route – as the presence of Adam Sandler in the lead should attest.
The choice of Sandler is such a good one that it’s actually rather surprising. Considering the fact that pretty much his entire career has been based around playing children trapped in men’s bodies – from his breakthrough role in Billy Madison through Little Nicky, Big Daddy, and so on. In recent years he may have started playing more mature characters – although the humour’s often still been decidedly childish – and even tried his hand at straight acting in the likes of Reign Over Me, but Sandler remains famous primarily for being a big kid. The only trouble is, quite a few of his movies have jokes in them that many parents might consider inappropriate, even though pre-teens are pretty much his natural audience.
So the fact that Bedtime Stories is distributed by Disney should come as a great relief to all concerned. It’s the first time Sandler and Disney have teamed up – and as we can be certain that the mighty Mouse is never going to associate itself with humour that’s too puerile we, at last, have a Sandler movie aimed at the age-group most likely to click with his infantile sense of humour. Where some previous Sandler films have had moments of deep parental embarrassment, you can be sure that there won’t be any jokes about genitals or bodily functions in this outing – or, at least, none that are too close to the bone.
Yet for Sandler fans, don’t despair – he may have been toned down a bit, but his character will be familiar to anyone who’s seen more than a couple of his movies. This time he’s opted for the slightly stupid meets slightly working class approach again (think Big Daddy and Happy Gilmore) playing a handyman who gets lumbered with looking after his young niece and nephew.
And so it comes to pass that Sandler’s handyman discovers that the stories he’s been telling his pre-pubescent relatives seem to be coming true – or aspects of them, at any rate. A bit of experimentation later – and after a brief spell of thinking he may have godlike powers – it becomes clear that it is in fact the niece and nephew whose imaginations can become reality, not his own. And, of course, he meets the girl of his dreams.
It’s all nice, simple family fun, with plenty of entertaining mini adventures – mostly with pretty impressive special effects – as the bedtime stories themselves are related as a series of miniature films within the film. The only slight downer for more sensitive British family audiences might be the presence of Russell Brand as Sandler’s best buddy, proving that the recent kerfuffle over his now-defunct Radio 2 show really couldn’t bother him less (not least because he’s now been cast as Johnny Depp’s brother in Pirates of the Caribbean 4). But don’t let that put you off – just as you shouldn’t let Adam Sandler put you off if you’re one of the many who can’t stand the guy. This is one of his most entertaining films to date.