By Clint Morris
Excess consumption of most Adam Sandler movies can lead to a laxative effect, but never so much as his latest artificially-sweetened punnet of syrup.
Granted, the Sandman got off to a good start this year. After a couple of unfunny duds (like “I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry”) he made a triumphant return to form with an edgier and very un-PC offering called You Don’t Mess with the Zohan. The spy-cum-hairdresser face was Sandler at his sharp, over-the-top best. Which is probably why the “bed” sores are even noticeable on his latest effort – a decidedly underwritten bit of kiddie fluff from Disney.
Either because The Rock was on leave, or Tim Allen’s too busy sucking up David Mamet’s ass (he left the world of Disney behind temporarily for a role in the Mamet drama “Redbelt), pleading for a role in his next movie, Sandler’s found himself in this kids-only offering that might’ve been so much of a noticeable mess if someone had decided to flesh out its rather original idea a bit more – or, it’d starred Allen.
Sandler is Skeeter, a hotel handyman whose life changes when the lavish bedtime stories he tells his niece and nephew (who he’s sharing guardian duties with their mother’s friend, Jill, played by Keri Russell, for the week) start to magically come true. Throw in the smarmy new manager-to-be (Guy Pearce, picking up a cheque), who of course will get his comeuppance by films end, and you’ve got a an over-ambitious Christmas-classic wannabe.
As a parent, I can appreciate a light, fluffy and illogical comedy for children – I’ve sat through many – but there’s just something about director Adam Shankman’s latest that feels undercooked. The problem, as I see it, lies in the script – not only is the idea behind the film not explained or ripped apart enough, but most of the gags seem lifted from a bad straight-to-video James Belushi flick (funnily enough, this one shares similarities with a flick Belushi did for Disney in the early 90s called “Mr Destiny” – only it was better). The guinea pig with the big, bulging eyes was funny for a second – but how many times do they insist on repeating the joke!?,, and the slapstickish fantasy elements of the film more resemble something from the opening moments of “Mannequin 2 : On the Move” than, well, “Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” – which probably should’ve been a good model for this one to draw from. It’s an admirable mess – but it’s still a mess.
Sandler’s not at his best here either. He’s too restrained – and the â€˜yes, but kids are watching’ excuse doesn’t cut it. It seems Disney have asked him to channel Tim Allen and stay as far away from his usual on-screen self as possible. But sadder is that the fine supporting cast – Guy Pearce, Teresa Palmer, Richard Griffiths and British comedian Russell Brand are forgettable; Sandler-regulars Rob Schneider and Allen Covert, in small roles, even more so- have all been wasted. They’re set-dressing, nothing more. Keri Russell (“Waitress”) fares a bit better, and makes for quite a sweetie, as Sandler’s unlikely love interest, but even she deserves better.
Having said that, there’s still some fun for kids to be had here – the â€˜raining gumballs’ scene, the â€˜mermaid’ scene, the â€˜space’ sequence, â€˜Bugsy’ the wide-eyed guinea pig will be favourites – just nothing that’ll deter kids away from the latest “Madagascar”.
Deleted scenes, some amusing bloopers, and quite a few featurettes on the making-of the movie.