At first glance from the trailer, I thought this would be somewhat as insipid as 2006's Night At The Museum, where Ben Stiller had to dumb it down to provide for mass entertainment with Safe written all over it because 'tis the season of good tidings and such. But as it turned out, Adam Sandler proved to have struck some gold with this Disney offering, and I thought it was successfully refreshing for a change after his vulgar outing as Israeli counter-terrorist operative Zohan Dvir.
Sandler stars as a hotel maintenance man Skeeter Bronson, whose father Marty (Jonathan Pryce) had to sell their family hotel to Barry Nottingham (Richard Griffiths) to stave off bankruptcy. As a verbal clause, Barry promised to have let Skeeter run the hotel in the future, but as it turns out, maintenance is the department that Skeeter's stuck in instead. And things don't turn out all the more better in his life, where rival Kendall (Guy Pearce) gets slated to take over a new hotel since he's dating the boss's daughter Violet (Teresa Palmer), while Skeeter's sister Wendy (Courteney Cox) has to get out of town and dumps her two children Patrick (Jonathan Morgan Heit) and Bobbi (Laura Ann Kesling) for him and her friend Jill (Keri Russell) to babysit.
Hold on, didn't I just name drop a lot? You bet! Part of the fun in this movie are the familiar faces that pop up now and then. I had always associated Guy Pearce with more serious roles, and watching him ham it up here (his Broadway number especially) was something quite fun. Keri Russell continues to show that she ages with grace and Courteney Cox didn't lag any far behind too. We also have Russell Brand whom we know as the Brit rock singer in Forgetting Sarah Marshall star as yet another clueless slacker friend of Skeeter's, while Xena fans will lap at their star Lucy Lawless' supporting role here, and quite unrecognizable too with her bob hairdo.
And that's not all! Imagine having Carmen Electra in a cameo, together with Rob Schneider and I thought I spied Will Farrell too (I could be wrong with his uncredited blink and you miss appearance though) as they lend support to this Happy Madison co-production, as they always do the previously produced films. But what I felt had held the movie together, aside from that impossibly bug-eyed looking guinea pig, were the two kids Jonathan Morgan Heit and Laura Ann Kesling. They are Cute personified, and in all earnestness, just as how Sandler's Skeeter echoed, one cannot fathom how anyone would bear to abandon them, or as far as Wendy's upbringing is concerned, made them lose out on the fun things in life. I'd cuddle them, seriously (while at the same time try and get them to spin tales that go my way, haha!)
The two kids carry the show really well, and as the story goes, they have this inexplicable ability to make their version of the bedtime stories come true to life, while not exactly always in verbatim fashion. So while Skeeter thought he had figured things out, he tries to manipulate them so that they continue his stories which skew to his advantage, but of course this being a comedy, always end up in situations that provide fuel for laughter. And the production values don't come cheap too, as we have stories brought to life from medieval times, the wild wild west, outer space as well as in Ancient Rome, but always mirroring their real life counterparts and situations that Skeeter so decides. No effort was spared in making these stories as zany as they can be, but always kid safe.
There are some nice messages to impart, moral values if you wish, in what you could expect from a Disney film. It's extremely kid-friendly (I think I've mentioned this for the umpteenth time), and looking at the line up of offerings this Christmas season, this is certainly a no brainer for anyone to bring their whole family to. It doesn't try to be more than it is, and has this fuzzy warm feeling for its ending that suits the mood for celebration. It doesn't go over the top, and the ensemble cast all looked as if they had a good time putting together something for the season, for all to enjoy. Not an instant classic, but the bedtime stories here will grow on you. Recommended!