Once upon a time there was a movie studio that thought it could produce a hit with a performer best known for raunchy slacker comedies and a lot of money for special effects. This story does not turn out very happily ever after.
Adam Sandler plays Skeeter, a hotel handyman who dreams of being the manager. His sister Wendy (Courtney Cox) asks him to stay with her children while she interviews for a new job. He tells them a bedtime story which they embellish and the next day some of its most outlandish details start to come true, even a shower of gumballs. As Skeeter competes with the obsequious Kendall (Guy Pearce) who is the boyfriend of the hotel owner, for the position of manager of a fancy new facility, he tries to direct the bedtime stories to help him succeed. Each night’s story — whether about a knight, a cowboy, an outer space adventurer, or a gladiator — influences the next day’s events.
The children in the audience laughed a lot at some of the silly details and schoolyard humor. And they enjoyed figuring out before Skeeter did that it was not the details he added to the story but the children’s ideas that shaped the real-world events. There are some marvelous special effects in the depiction of the stories, too. But anyone over the age of seven is unlikely to be more than mildly entertained by the film because of Sandler’s pudgy, barely-interested performance and a present-day storyline that is lackluster in contrast with the wild adventures of the bedtime sagas. Wendy’s “funny” restrictions on the children’s food and activities and a subplot intended to be suspenseful about whether her school will be torn down are distracting, especially when near the end there is a big waste of time when the film has to step up the pressure by putting children in senseless peril and dragging out the suspense. Keri Russell is radiant as always as Wendy’s friend and Skeeter’s love interest. Her brief appearance in the fantasy stories are as dazzling as the most elaborate special effects. The other characters are never as interesting as the time allotted to them means them to be. British bad boy Russell Brand is completely out of place as Skeeter’s friend and Guy Pearce is fighting at way below his weight class as Skeeter’s nemesis. We would all have done better if the children wrote the story.