Eric German | Sunday, 04 January 2009

Far from magical

Skeeter Bronson (Adam Sandler) works as a handy man at a resort complex that stands on the ground formerly occupied by his father’s hotel. Magnate Barry Nottingham (Richard Griffiths) bought it from Bronson’s bankrupt father who made him promise him that he would employ his son.
He did, but only as a handy man. The manager’s job went to Kendall (Guy Pearce) who’s also set to marry Nottingham’s daughter, Violet (Teresa Palmer). Bronson’s divorced sister, Wendy (Courtney Cox), asks him to babysit with his young nephew and niece, Bobbi and Patrick, at night while her friend Jill (Keri Russell) takes care of them during the daytime.
The children don’t like the unhappy endings of Bronson’s bedtime stories and improvise their own happy endings. When Bronson finds that their stories have a way of coming true, he tries to use this to take over from Kendall as manager.
The word “magical” is emphasised at least three times during the prologue but far from anything of the sort, this is the all too familiar Disney confection for little children.
The characters are stereotypes to allow for immediate recognition, the worst casualty being Guy Pearce who has to look and act pompously so that the kids will root for Sandler to take his job.
The plot is telegraphed well in advance and signposted by billboard writing. There are four fantasies which are set in medieval times, in the Old West, in ancient Greece and in outer space. They all amount to the same thing: the “unappreciated” Bronson finally attains recognition, gets the girl and beats the villain. Only the costumes are different.
The would-be jokes are childish and the Western fantasy has a horse called Ferrari and which is coloured red.
Bedtime Stories is a radical departure for Sandler because it’s a Disney film. He’s ditched his usual gross-out gags, political correctness send ups and sexual humour but he’s still playing the man-child and his shtick feels more at home in a children’s film.
Laura Ann Kesling and Morgan Heit are sweet as Bobbi and Patrick. But they’re accompanied by the film’s most annoying character, a CG guinea pig with such huge eyes that even Sandler is moved to remark, “Those eyes would look big on a cow.”

The package is a girl

She’s Valentina (Natalya Rudakova), the daughter of the Ukrainian energy minister, Vasilev (Jeroen Krabbe). She’s been kidnapped by ruthless businessman Johnson (Robert Knepper) to force Vasilev into signing a contract allowing ships carrying toxic waste to dock in Odessa.
Mob courier Frank Martin (Jason Stratham) has to drive her across Europe and elude the various parties chasing them. He and the girl have been forced to wear bracelets that will explode if they go one step further than 75 feet away from the car.
The Transporter films were farfetched and disposable but eminently watchable while they were unfolding on the screen. Transporter 3 is preposterous and Olivier Megaton’s direction is too slack to get us hooked. Since he doesn’t hold our attention, one becomes irritatingly aware of the holes in the script which are big enough to drive a container through.
Both Cory Yuen and Louis Leterrier, who directed the first two films, did so professionally giving us furiously-paced, tense and thrilling testosterone- fuelled action films. Megaton is very showy but his direction left me detached from what was taking place.
The film has the same disregard for plotting as it has for gravity and there’s an excessive tendency to fake the chases and car stunts by CGI. It’s rather obviously done so it takes all the excitement out of them.
And it’s sheer folly to hire Corey Yuen to choreograph the fight scenes and then to chop them up into so many little pieces that we only get an incomprehensible muddle.
Natalya Rudakova is so limited as an actress that it’s embarrassing to watch her trying to show a bit of basic emotion. First refusing to talk to Martin, she sulks, pouts and is generally disagreeable.
She’s a freckled redhead but she doesn’t have what’s a given in such eye candy roles because she’s neither sexy nor appealing. She acts like a clumsy peasant even when she’s trying to seduce Martin and she always feels out of place.
The only constant is Jason Stratham who’s convincingly tough and cynical, oozes macho charm and has a humorous way of tossing off sarcastic one liners. He immediately became identifiable with Martin but this time he’s wasted and not even his considerable efforts can save the film.

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