A version of this review originally appeared Thursday.
Great works of literature have often begun life as stories told to kids.
Alice in Wonderland
comes to mind, and
. It's hard to imagine the tales of
- fantasies set in ancient Rome, the Middle Ages, the Old West and outer space - becoming classics, although they serve the goofball purposes of Adam Sandler well enough in this antic family vehicle.
Directed by Adam Shankman (
stars the man behind
The Wedding Singer
as Skeeter Bronson, a sad-sack hotel-maintenance dude. When Skeeter's school principal sister (Courtney Cox) goes out of town, her flaky sibling is recruited to look after the kids.
And so Skeeter regales his niece and nephew - and their pop-eyed guinea pig, Bugsy - with improvised adventures and tales of derring-do. When the kids add details of their own (gumballs raining from the sky, for instance), the next day these things come true.
Sloppy, choppy, and saved by an affably low-key and typically sophomoric Sandler performance,
follows Skeeter as he competes with a sycophantic hotel manager (Guy Pearce in an uncomfortable stab at comedy) for a top job in the Nottingham Hotel empire.
Owner Barry Nottingham (Richard Griffiths) has known Skeeter since he was a child but has never given him the shot he deserves. Now, thanks to this weird storytelling magic, Skeeter has his chance at career advancement.
I'm not sure why so many Brits and Aussies populate
Disney-produced family flick. In addition to U.K.-ers Griffiths and Russell Brand, Jonathan Pryce shows up, too. Along with Pearce, there's Teresa Palmer as the hotelier's heiress, who also hails from Down Under. But
does have a comic buoyancy, even as its plot trots on a predictable course. Perhaps the different accents and sensibilities have something to do with that.
Directed by Adam Shankman. With Adam Sandler, Keri Russell, Guy Pearce, Courtney Cox, Teresa Palmer and Russell Brand. Distributed by Walt Disney Pictures.
1 hour, 39 mins.
PG (gross humor, adult themes)