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Eight Crazy Nights (November 27/02)

Eight Crazy Nights is ideal for Adam Sandler fans who were confused by Punch-Drunk Love. It's a shame, really; though Punch-Drunk Love is clearly Sandler's best film thus far in his career, the majority of his comedies (Happy Gilmore, in particular) are absurd, hilarious fun. But with Eight Crazy Nights, a pastiche of juvenile jokes and silly songs, Sandler seems to be getting in touch with his inner 13-year-old.

Though it's an animated feature, the movie plays like a typical Sandler comedy - complete with cameos from former Saturday Night Live castmates. The film revolves around Davey (voiced by Sandler), a bully whose loathing for people around him stems from his self-hatred (that's not a deep psychological profile; Davey makes that observation during the first of many songs). After a night of heavy drinking and vandalism, a judge orders Davey to become an assistant referee for a basketball program for youths. There, he's paired with Whitey (also voiced by Sandler) - a kind-hearted old man who believes that everyone has some good in them. Though Davey is initially reluctant to help out (not that he's got much of a choice, really), he eventually comes around due to the efforts of Whitey and his sister Eleanore (yup, you guessed it: voiced by Sandler), and an old high school friend named Jennifer who we instantly recognize to be a love interest.

It's impossible not to wonder which demographic Eight Crazy Nights has been designed for. It's too vulgar and raunchy for younger children (the movie even has a couple of swear words thrown in, for no good reason), and too juvenile for older viewers. And the target audience (presumably teenagers) will more-than-likely be turned off by the variety of mawkish elements, leaving a very small contingent of hard-core Sandler fans to pick up the slack. The movie is sort of entertaining, but even at an hour and ten minutes, the movie still feels a little long. That's due in no small part to the overbearing amount of songs present in the movie. Most Disney musicals don't have this many songs in them, and even if they did, they'd surely be a lot better than these. With the exception of one or two, the majority of these tunes are instantly forgettable and feel as though they were plugged in to extend the ridiculously short running time. And yes, the much ballyhooed latest installment of the Chanukah Song is here - in the closing credits.

There's no real reason for the film to be animated, either, since the majority of the film remains fairly realistic (aside from the continuing presence of a group of unusually helpful deer). It doesn't help that the animation has a sort of plain quality to it; an episode of The Simpsons has more visual panache than this. And there's a good amount of product placement on display here, which is pretty amazing considering this is a cartoon. The storyline, a variation on the old Scrooge tale, doesn't really offer up anything we haven't seen before; virtually every supposed plot twist can be seen coming a mile away (gee, wonder if Davey will form a bond with Jennifer's kid?) The cameos by folks like Kevin Nealon and Jon Lovitz (whose cartoon doppelganger looks remarkably like the real thing) are amusing and there are one or two jokes that work, but really, this is a subpar Sandler flick (think Little Nicky, only animated and with songs).

out of

© David Nusair