Hotel maintenance man Skeeter Bronson (Adam Sandler) always had his hands in the hotel business thanks to the guidance of his father Marty (Jonathan Pryce). Skeeter grows into a whimsical, dedicated worker while his imaginative dreams took a back seat to adulthood responsibilities. This experienced host accomplished with several hospitality duties along with his sister Wendy (Courtney Cox), who’s now a school principal fighting to save her school.
When Wendy has Skeeter watch her kids, Patrick and Bobbi, his adventures come back to life in bedtime stories that seem to come true in real life. Thanks to Wendy’s media and fast-food freeze on her little ones, Skeeter’s only avenue of entertainment for the kids is making up stories after passing on Wendy’s recommended books like “The Organic Squirrel Gets a Bike Helmet.” Wendy’s co-worker Jill (Keri Russell), a teacher also factors in as she picks up the kids every morning for this week long adventure. Both women are very believable in their roles and improve the dramatic aspects of the screenplay written by Disney mainstay screenwriter Matt Lopez who teams up with Sandler mainstay Tim Herlihy.
Skeeter’s time with his niece and nephew, along with their wide eyed guinea pig named Bugsy, conveniently aligns with Skeeter’s big chance to share his hotel ideas with the germophobic owner Barry Nottingham (Richard Griffiths). Nottingham’s daughter Violet (Teresa Palmer), pokes fun at Paris Hilton. The story even includes a quick “hot tub” mention involving Violet in a western fantasy, which, intended or not (pick 1 or 2), got some boisterous laughs. Filmmakers seem to be aware of the reference because they use a wide shot so you basically see two people just jumping in a hot tub. Guy Pearce, as the hapless “bad guy”, and an almost unrecognizable Lucy Lawless try to stop Skeeter at every turn.
Adam Sandler uses less physical comedy in his routine as the dialogue heavy scenes call for supporting comedy from Skeeter’s co-worker Mickey (Russell Brand). Even Sandler’s constant co-stars Rob Schneider and Allen Covert get in the act. Buzz Lightyear also makes an appearance.
Filmmakers ramp up the stunts and special effects so the proceeding aren’t too “after school special” sappy. Director Adam Shankman creates appealing visuals with great lighting and cinematography in nearly every shot. Each character’s traits line up with ending resolutions and it is entertaining to see how the stories play out in real life. The story clogs a bit with some formulaic elements, like manipulating emotions where Skeeter lets the children down even though he was totally ignorant of a key business decision.
The fantasy explanations appear as the story progresses, but the movie gravitates towards this common theme: if you look for goodness/adventure in life, you will find it. This approach allows Skeeter to handle situations differently and positively as he gives up personal control while trying to look for life’s cues from the stories. It might have been funny to see other way Skeeter might have handled these events, but the plot ploy works pretty well. This comedy needed more finesse for a blockbuster best seller, but plays fairly overall while even leaving the story open for a sequel. This fantasy comedy comes recommended with reservations and rated PG for mild language and some crude humor.