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Adam's family values

Movies | Sandler comes clean in Bedtime Stories

Issue: "News of the Year," Dec. 27, 2008

While it's encouraging to see stars like Adam Sandler committing to doing family movies, it doesn't mean that every member of the family will enjoy Bedtime Stories (rated PG for mild rude humor and mild language) to the same degree.

From castles and mermaids to hails of gumdrops, the story of a man who discovers that the bedtime stories he tells his niece and nephew start coming true pushes all the right buttons for kids. And there's no doubt they will find Sandler's signature growling gibberish and his juvenile sarcasm hilarious.

In fact, while much of Sandler's previous work is marked by sexual innuendo and bloodless violence, his core style requires surprisingly little change to translate to the under-11 set. There has always been something remarkably childlike, or perhaps more accurately, childish, about his comedic persona. And half the humor of his movies is the specter of a man acting out every immature urge to throw a tantrum or hurl a petty insult that most adults resist. Bedtime Stories includes a few more silly elements like a magical, bug-eyed hamster, but the star of Billy Madison and Happy Gilmore doesn't depart much from his box-office winning formula.

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Parents might find the film amusing for the first 30 minutes, but after that, unless they are major Sandler fans, his antics will likely become grating. As Sandler himself notes, "The only thing different here is that I don't swear or hit anybody."

Father knows best

By Megan Basham

LOS ANGELES-As director Adam Shankman (The Pacifier, Cheaper by the Dozen) enters the press conference for his latest release, Bedtime Stories, he asks the crowd of critics and entertainment reporters with mock-incredulity, "Adam Sandler made a Disney movie! Can you believe it?"

Actually, it's not so unbelievable. It happens to a lot of leading men. They may start out as the toughest of action stars or the raunchiest of comedians, but eventually something comes along that changes them. That something? Fatherhood. Once their offspring enter the world, many actors long to do work their children will cheer them for. So it should come as little surprise that Adam Sandler, father to newborn and 2-year-old daughters, is now focusing his comedy chops in a new direction.

Sandler jokes that because kids "end up seeing my movies anyway," he's often accosted by parents upset about the negative influence his work has on their children. "They'll come up accusing me of teaching their kids to pee on walls," he notes with a laugh. With the PG-rated Bedtime Stories, the one-time king of crude and hero to frat boys everywhere says he hopes he has finally made a film that "mothers will hug me for."

And it's not just Sandler turning over a family-friendly new leaf, it's his entire crew of rude-boy buddies who have appeared in most of his films since Billy Madison. "[Rob] Schneider always wanted to make a family movie. So did [Allen] Covert because all my friends all have kids now," Sandler says. "And we were excited to be in something that, seriously, we could play in the house and feel comfortable with our kids watching."

Some of his co-stars even found that the constrictions of the family genre brought their comedy game to a new level. Russell Brand, best known for his over-the-top obscene performance as a girlfriend-stealing rock star in the hardest of last year's R comedies, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, had to draw on different skills to entertain all ages, but found the experience well worth it. "Sometimes parameters create better work," Brand admits. "You often have go-to places that you fall back on as a comedian, and doing material for kids forces you to go different, more creative places."

Megan Basham
Megan Basham

Megan, a regular correspondent for WORLD News Group, is a writer and film critic living in Memphis, Tenn.. She is the author of Beside Every Successful Man: A Woman's Guide to Having It All.

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