It’s been four years since Skeeter Bronson (Adam Sandler) was invited to his sister’s (Courtney Cox) home. But now the divorced mom needs some family support. Leaving town to look for a job, she asks her brother, a hotel handyman, to take the night shift watching her kids, Bobby (Laura Ann Kesling) and Patrick (Jonathan Morgan Heit) while she is away.
Unlike his vegan, safety-conscious, politically correct sibling, Skeeter has a more relaxed approach to life and child-care. Picking up his little relatives from their daytime sitter, Jill (Keri Russel), he tucks the two tikes under the covers. Then rather than reading the trendy, sanitized fiction his sister left behind, he decides to make up the kind of bedtime story his father (Jonathan Pryce) used to tell. Full of adventure, danger and even a little romance, his tale ignites the imagination of his niece and nephew who soon add their own lines to the narrative.
The real surprise comes the following day when the previous night’s account begins to come true in the most surprising way. Hoping to take advantage of this newfound magic, Skeeter’s next nightly anecdote is full of all types of honors for the humble handyman. But it doesn’t take long to realize it’s Bobby and Patrick’s input that steers the story.
Meanwhile, Skeeter and a fellow hospitality employee, Kendall (Guy Pearce), have a chance to pitch a hotel theme idea to their boss, Barry Nottingham (Richard Griffiths). The winner of the competition will manage the new establishment. With all of his hopes hanging on a contest, Skeeter is desperate to maneuver the children’s literary contributions in favor of him.
Though making a movie that appeals to both adults and children is nearly an impossible feat, Bedtime Stories, for the most part, errs in favor of the juvenile set with two engaging young actors, a bugged-eyed guinea pig and plenty of fantastical settings. On the other hand, the script also contains several flatulence gags, some rude comments and name-calling, mild sexual innuendo, and cartoon-style violence that some families may wish to avoid. As well, a character sprays himself and another man in the face with a flame-retardant aerosol, causing extreme pain. Other moments of peril (including children inside a building that is about to be demolished) may cause concern for very young viewers too.
Yet Bedtime Stories has an imaginative premise that highlights the importance of old-fashioned storytelling. While Bobby and Patrick’s fictitious additions may be farfetched, the film uses creative means to bring the children’s input to life. In true Sandler-style, Skeeter, though still hoping for a cherry red Ferrari and a big promotion, discovers the role he has in authoring the outcome of his own life. Choosing to act rather than rely on fate, he begins to build relationships with those he loves in anticipation of a happily-ever-after ending.