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dir Adam Shankman
scr Matt Lopez, Tim Herlihy
with Adam Sandler, Keri Russell, Guy Pearce, Russell Brand, Courteney Cox, Richard Griffiths, Teresa Palmer, Laura Ann Kesling, Jonathan Morgan Heit, Lucy Lawless, Aisha Tyler, Jonathan Pryce
release US 25.Dec.08, UK 26.Dec.08
It's raining gumballs: Sandler
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E
The script for this childish comedy is genuinely witty, and nicely played by the cast, but it would have been much more enjoyable if the plot had been a bit more innovative. Or if it actually went somewhere.
After growing up in the family-run hotel, Skeeter (Sandler) is cheated out of his inheritance by developer Barry (Griffiths), who hires the smarmy boyfriend (Kendall) of his celebutante daughter (Palmer) to manage the now 5-star property. While babysitting the children (Kesling and Heit) of his sister (Cox), Skeeter discovers that when he tells a bedtime story, things start to come true in real life. So he spins the stories in an effort to reclaim his birthright. But the results are just a bit unpredictable.
The film kicks off with snappy dialog and hilarious characters although, as with most Sandler comedies, the side players steal the show. As Skeeter's improbable best friend, Brand clearly writes his own dialog, which is easily the funniest thing in the movie. Pearce reminds us how good he is at playing comedy, Russell is sassy and tart as Skeeter's foil, and Lawless is hilarious as the hotel's snootily evil concierge.
Sandler sleepwalks through most of his films, and this is no exception. But the problem here is that his charming everyman is undermined by the fact that Skeeter turns into a money-grubbing jerk. Yes, we know it'll be fine in the end (duh!), but getting there isn't as much fun as it should be, and the script can't be bothered to make something interesting out of it. Instead, there's yet another lame gag about the kids' bug-eyed pet guinea pig.
This is a shame, since the premise offers so much scope for both eye-popping effects work and thematic subtext. But Shankman seems to be hampered by both budget problems and studio concerns. Each of fantasy sequence is loaded with potential--Wild West, outer space, medieval castle, ancient Greece--but none are allowed to develop. And the story's undertones--healthy eating, celebrity obsessions, the clash between commerce and community--turn out to be mere name-checking in the race to the usual funny-sweet finale. It's enjoyable, but also instantly forgettable.
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© 2008 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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