Rating: Rated G (very mild slapstick violence)
The word that some reviewers use to describe this kind of off-beat comedy which, if you are in the mood and get caught up in it, is 'a hoot'. It is not for the curmudgeonly or those who would not be seen dead (let alone alive) in a multiplex.
Adam Sandler's comedy is an acquired taste – and, for the last thirteen years or so, many audiences have been happy to acquire it. The comedies are often hit and miss but that is the nature of popular comedy. Try a gag and move on to the next one.
Sandler himself has become somewhat more sympathetic, or plays more sympathetic roles than he did in his earlier 'airhead' comedies. He is now over 40 and has children. Which obviously attracted him to this story where he can play zany father-figure and still be the clown.
Speaking of attraction, he has attracted quite a large cast of actors rather than comedians, especially from the UK and Australia. The film opens with Jonathan Pryce confiding in the audience about his son, Skeeter, to whom he loves to tell bedtime stories. He manages a hotel, or, rather, he does his best which, business-wise, is not good enough. And the buyer, the rotundly eccentric Richard Griffiths, does not honour his promise to make Skeeter a manager when he grows up. Instead, he is the local handyman.
His rival for a try at persuading the owner to give him the job is the supremely arrogant, without-a-moment-of-self-doubt, ambitious Guy Pearce, obviously enjoying himself playing a hiss the villain prig. He is aided and abetted by Lucy Lawless as the hotel receptionist. Skeeter, on the other hand is aided and abetted by Russell Brand, a hotel waiter, doing his shtick of obnoxious behaviour and amusingly literate talk. And there is the boss's Paris Hilton-like daughter, flirtatious and seemingly the princess of the piece (Australian Teresa Palmer). But, of course, she isn't.
Oh, the plot and the hoot content. When Skeeter's sister, Courtney Cox, has to travel away for a job interview, Skeeter has to look after her little children who have been brought up environmentally correctly. Skeeter takes babystitting in turns with his sister's best friend, Keri Russell. Needless to say, the kids are introduced to burgers and fries, television and all that they should not eat or do. They also possess a scene-stealing guinea pig called Bugsy because of his large, gazing eyes (the guinea pig is real but his eyes are special effects!).
When Skeeter tells the kids bedtime stories, and they intervene with plot details, the stories are variations of Skeeters' struggles with this rival and, the best part, is that they come alive: in medieval times, in the wild west, in ancient Greece and in space, parodying all those kinds of films, with all the cast included in the story to amusing effect. Then, they have a twist fulfilment in real life.
Sandler is genial. His friend Rob Schneider makes some funny appearances as he usually does in Sandler's films. The romance works out. The hotel is renovated (though that is too stylish a word). The villains get their comeuppance but more nicely than not. A critic walking out of the cinema said that it was his worst film of the year. Objectively, he was quite wrong!
Walt Disney Studios Out December 26
Fr Peter Malone MSC directs the film desk of SIGNIS: the World Association of Catholic Communicators, and is an associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film & Broadcasting.