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Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Bedtime Stories

I’ve put off writing about Bedtime Stories for a week in the wee hope that I’d somehow be inspired to say something nice about this movie, but it hasn’t come to me yet, so I’ll just tell you how it is. Bedtime Stories is a big snooze. This is one of those movies where all of the (allegedly) funny bits are shown in the 30 second television commercials that blanketed the media last week, so if you had your tv on at all over the Christmas holiday then you’ve seen the best parts of Bedtime Stories.

The day I went to see this “family entertainment”, which seems to have become a euphemism for bland pap, the theater was quite full, too full in my mind, of rowdy children without proper supervision. Two ginger-haired boys of ten or eleven decided they wanted to sit in the top row where I was and felt compelled to reach this height by climbing over the backs of the chairs, row by row, instead of simply walking like civilized human beings to the aisle and ascending that way instead of as the apes they appear to mimic. Not unexpectedly, their mother remained in the middle of the theater and bellowed back “I can’t do that, so you’re just going to have to sit up there on your own!” Now, since I didn’t detect any crutches, oxygen tank, parked wheelchair, or guide dog near her, I assumed she meant she couldn’t crawl over the seats and not that she was incapable of making her way up the nine more rows to the top if she actually wanted to sit with these rowdy children. I eyed them warily and gave her back a call. “Don’t worry, Dear,” I sang sweetly, “If you’re unwilling to keep your children in line during the movie I’ll make sure they (now with a growl) remain quiet and in their seats.” I grinned my most Mr. Sardonicus smile, the one my perfect husband says makes his testicles take a hike up into his stomach in fear whenever he sees it.

Meanwhile, as if this hasn’t been annoying enough, a few rows below me a mother and father, along with their kids, ages approximately 4, 7, and 9 have settled in, with a newborn infant they’ve left in a baby’s car-seat on the floor next to them. A newborn. On the floor. I’m sorry, but if you can pay for five people’s admissions and food for five from the concession stand to come to a movie, then you can friggin’ afford a babysitter for a couple of hours to care for your baby or one of the parents can take the other kids to the movie while the other stays home with the baby. This is pure, unadulterated selfishness. They know the little poop machine is going to start screaming sometime during the movie and bug everybody else in the theater. Do they care? I guess we’ll see.

Now all I have to do is hope the three adults who have ferried in a day care center full of six and seven year olds can keep the thirty of them seated and then we’ll at least have a chance of giving
Bedtime Stories our full attention. As the lights go down the little hooligans next to me whip out their cell phones and both started texting immediately. I give them a “Lurch” -like warning of unhappiness and they put the phones away immediately, filling my heart with joy. I actually think I heard a distinct gulp come from one of the two and just in time for the feature to begin. I’ll admit it; I had to brush back a tear.

About half an hour in I realized that perhaps the distractions would have been more entertaining. The story concerns an L. A. hotel handyman named Skeeter (Adam Sandler; Don’t Mess with the Zohan), who is asked by his older sister Wendy (Courtney Cox; tv’s “Dirt”) to look after her two kids at night while she goes on a job hunt out of state for a week. She’s been the principal of an elementary school for several years, but, inexplicably, the school has suddenly been scheduled for demolition, and so Wendy is looking everywhere for a new job, especially now that she and the kids’ Dad have divorced and she’s on her own.

Helping Skeeter with his caretaking duties during the daytime hours is a friend of Wendy’s and a teacher at the school (where both kids also go to classes), a beauty named Jill (Keri Russell; August Rush), who can’t pull the night shift because she is attending college in the evenings. Naturally, Skeeter and Jill can’t stand one another, so you already know they’ll be deeply in love by the end credits. It’s a no-brainer, which is the best way to describe the target audience for this piece of fluff.

It’s been a long time since Skeeter has been around his niece and nephew because
his former brother-in-law didn’t like him, so Skeeter just stayed away. There’s no explanation for this. It’s just stated bluntly and passed over. For all we know the never seen ex-husband may have hated Skeeter because Skeeter is on a convicted child sex offender’s list. I’m just sayin’…

Now, he is looking forward to getting to know the kids again, especially since he sees it as an excuse to treat them to all the things their mother restricts, like meat and ice cream. Patrick (Jonathan Morgan Heit) and Bobby (Laura Ann Kesling), both in their big screen debuts, are naturals as the adorable siblings who are forced to believe they share the DNA of both Sandler and Cox, though it must be a challenge for them to feign interest in the lame stories “Uncle Skeeter” tries passing off as
Bedtime Stories. It’s when they start adding things to Skeeter’s tepid tales that things get modestly interesting as variations on their bits to the stories actually begin happening to Skeeter the following day.

Of course, there’s a whole secondary “adult” plot to keep the parents awake (allegedly) about the lousy way Skeeter has been treated at work for years and how he should really be in charge of the entire hotel but was screwed out of that chance years earlier and now may get a reprieve if he can win a competition against the asinine current manager, Kendall (Guy Pearce; Traitor), who also happens to be the hotel owner’s (Richard Griffiths; Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix) daughter’s (Teresa Palmer; Restraint) boyfriend. Not that the cards are stacked against Skeeter, eh?

Needless to say, the cast could do much better than the sitcom level shenanigans the script by Mat
t Lopez (whose only previous credit was as one of a dozen writers on 2006’s The Wild) and Tim Herlihy (2002’s Mr. Deeds) settle on, but it seems to be a crowd-pleaser with this audience, at least those who can hear it over the SCREAMING baby. Oh, you just knew those dim-witted parents were going to be too self-centered to get off their duffs and take that squealing little piglet out of the theater when it started up. Nooooo; instead, it wails on unencumbered from beginning to end of the picture without anyone making a move to quiet it down. I suppose this is why people don’t bring ball peen hammers to the cinemas with them anymore, and why I was briefly ~ very briefly ~ encouraged by a news story this week.

In Philadelphia, 29-year-old James Joseph Cialella was arrested after he shot a man for refusing to be quiet while they were at the movies. Police say that Cialella asked a family sitting in front of him to be quiet during the picture, and they replied *ahem* with profanity and continued to talk at a high level. At that point Cialella approached the family and engaged in an argument with the father of the group, who then physically pushed him. At that point Cialella pulled out a gun and shot the man in the arm, then sat back down and continued to watch the movie as if nothing had happened. Needless to say, the police soon arrived, the victim was taken to the hospital and Cialella was arrested and charged with attempted murder, aggravated assault and weapons violations.

Now, as I said, he only briefly encouraged me. First, if you are going to shoot someone and do hard
time over it, shoot them right. The arm? How girly is that! And worse yet, make it at a manly movie. This all happened at a showing of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. This almost sounds like it belongs in Bedtime Stories it is so inane. I could see someone taking out a gun at Punisher: War Zone or maybe even Valkyrie (maybe) but Benjamin Button? Girlfriend, please!

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