Bedtime Stories

Published: Friday, Dec. 26 2008 8:19 p.m. MST

Adam Sandler mugs shamelessly for the camera in new film, "Bedtime Stories."

Tracy Bennett

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BEDTIME STORIES — ★★ — Adam Sandler, Keri Russell, Guy Pearce; rated PG (violence, vulgarity, slurs, mild profanity); in general release

For a brief, shining moment or two, "Bedtime Stories" actually has a decent shot at winning over audiences.

That is, until Adam Sandler shows up and ruins everything.

As you'd expect, his "performance" in this comic fantasy mostly consists of him doing silly voices and mugging shamelessly for the camera. And once he shows up, the film's sensibilities also get considerably cruder.

Sandler produced the film and stars as Skeeter Bronson, a handyman working at a luxury hotel owned by the wealthy Barry Nottingham (Richard Griffiths).

Skeeter believes he's in line to succeed Barry as the hotel manager. Instead, the reclusive magnate has named Skeeter's smarmy nemesis, Kendall (Guy Pearce), as his next in line.

However, the obviously disappointed Skeeter's fortunes change for the better — and weirder — when he's left in charge of his nephew and niece, Patrick and Bobbi (Jonathan Morgan Heit and Laura Ann Kesling).

Elements from the bedtime stories he's been telling them begin to manifest themselves in the real world. And now Skeeter just needs to find a way to use that for his benefit.

While newcomer Matt Lopez is credited as one of two screenwriters, it's pretty obvious that this version was mostly written by Sandler cohort Tim Herlihy.

So large portions of the movie are opportunities for Sandler to play dress up in the kids' stories. Skeeter is a cowboy, a Roman chariot racer and an extraterrestrial hero.

Herlihy and director Adam Shankman also find a way to include the irksome Rob Schneider.

But there's not much here for co-stars Keri Russell and Courteney Cox, who plays Skeeter's strait-laced sister.

"Bedtime Stories" is rated PG and features violent content, most of which is supposedly done for laughs (pratfalls, gunplay, creature attacks and vehicular mayhem), vulgar flatulence and bodily excretion humor (references and sight gags), derogatory slurs and language, and scattered, mild profanity (religiously based). Running time: 95 minutes.

E-mail: jeff@desnews.com

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