“8 Crazy Nights” is a bit of an enigma. In the Venn diagram of movie goers, Adam Sandler fans are not an easy overlap with those who cherish holiday musicals. This lame attempt at comedy is more likely to appeal to the former than the latter.
Families looking for something to watch together should steer well clear, unless appreciation of outhouse humor is a family tradition. Clearly, this movie, with its taunting mockery of the physically challenged, its very graphic port-o-potty jokes and its drunken binges, is also not for animation fans seeking Disney’s sweet concoctions or Pixar’s wry wit. Older teens looking for the extreme edge of South Park will not be appeased by the suburban softness of fart jokes. All of which probably narrows the circle of appreciative audience members to those who want to see a feature length movie along the lines of skits from Spike & Mike’s Sick & Twisted Animation Festival.
Davey Stone (Adam Sandler) at 33 is an angry drunk living alone and hating the community, the holidays and himself. When his destructive behavior lands him in front of the judge and a jail sentence, Whitey Duvall (also Adam Sandler), the endlessly good hearted youth basketball coach, intervenes to help Davey find his inner-adult. Through flashbacks, Davey (Adam Uhler) at 12-years old is revealed to be a sweet and thoughtful kid with loving parents, a best friend/girlfriend, Jennifer, and a talent for basketball. It was his inability to come to terms with the loss of his parents that took Davey down the path to becoming the heavy-drinking town miscreant. Whitey’s attempts to put Davey on the straight and narrow path are aided by Eleanor Duvall (also Adam Sandler), Whitey’s twin sister, and the reappearance of Jennifer (Jackie Titone). However, it is a surreal intervention by product placements(!) at the mall that cracks Davey’s defenses, allowing him to finally accept his grief and find the spirit of the holidays.
Unleashed by the medium of animation, Sandler’s raging little boy humor takes on an aura of threatening menace, tempered only by Davey’s 11th hour revelation, which does little to heal the wounds inflicted along the way. Unlike his personas in “The Waterboy”, “Little Nicky”, “Happy Gilmore”, or numerous Saturday Night Live skits, Davey – Adam Sandler’s proxy — is seldom the object of the comical abuse, but it is instead the diminutive and furry, Whitey, who is the town’s whipping boy. While Davey’s equal opportunity hatred is (somewhat) explained, the treatment of the physically challenged Duvall twins by the town rings of a darker, crueler humor.
To soften the edges of jokes made at Whitey’s expense, a reappearing herd of deer (also voiced by Sandler) provide a comical tenderness (and some more excrement “humor”) in the movie’s most callow moments. In the end, it is only in the musical numbers that allow the lighter touch of Sandler’s humor to shine through and the audience can relax for a moment, remembering why they thought he was funny in the first place.
So who is the audience? This movie is aimed at Adam Sandler fans, who will chuckle at cameos by Jon Lovitz and Kevin Nealon, and sit happily through the credits to listen to version three of the Hanukah Song. Not only does the song lend the movie a title from its lyrics, but it showcases Sandler’s gentler irreverence, thus providing the palate cleansing mint after a mediocre meal.
Parents should know that this movie is not for young children or those who might find Davey’s actions worth imitating. The movie has extremely vulgar humor and strong language for a PG-13. The gross-out factor of this movie is quite high so some parents may not wish to watch the movie themselves.
Families who see this film might discuss Davey’s method of coping with the loss of his parents and his difficulties in accepting sympathy from people. Families may wish to discuss the treatment of different characters by the community, starting with the Duvall twins.
Families who enjoy this movie might enjoy other Adam Sandler movies such as “The Wedding Singer” and “Big Daddy.” Those looking for movies about the transforming powers of the holidays might wish to watch “Miracle on 34th Street”, “or “What a Wonderful Life.” For musicals, families might prefer the warmth of “White Christmas.” For potty humor and holidays, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. For entertaining and animated holiday entertainment, “The Nightmare before Christmas” or “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.” Funny Hanukah movies are harder to find and while Adam Sandler might just be the one to change that someday, it will not be today.