If you thought that Ice Cube’s recent Christmas-themed comedy, “Friday After Next,” was mean-spirited, wait until you check out “Adam Sandler’s Eight Crazy Nights.” This animated musical modernization of the old “Christmas Carol” formula about a holiday-hating ruffian transformed into a good guy is an astonishingly tasteless combination of gross sentimentality and simple grossness. By turns nasty, smarmy, violent, vulgar, dumb and weepy, the picture is one of those stinkers that virtually compel you to watch them with your mouth hanging open–and not because you’re laughing.
Sandler voices multiple roles in, as well as serving as one of the writers of, this bit of grotesquerie. He is, most prominently, Davey Stone, a thirtyish drunken lout who takes pleasure in destroying the Christmas/Chanukah spirit of everybody in the small town of Dukesberry, and who talks a lot like the regular potty-mouthed Adam himself. On the other hand, Sandler employs a strangulated falsetto that’s grating beyond belief for the character of Whitey, a sweet-tempered old codger who remembers Davey as a good-natured twelve-year old basketball whiz before the tragic death of his parents–the event that soured him on life. When Davey’s arrested for his latest destructive rampage and threatened with ten years in the clink, Whitey persuades the judge to make him do community service instead, as the old man’s assistant ref in the youth community basketball league. Whitey and his pudgy sister Eleanore (voiced by Sandler as well, this time as a thick caricature) also take Davey in when his trailer’s burned down by an irate guy he’s bested on the court. But Davey’s redemption won’t be achieved until he reconciles with his erstwhile girlfriend Jennifer (Jackie Titone), a hard-working single mom to darling tyke Benjamin (Austin Stout), and overcomes his own anger to persuade the town to recognize all the sacrifices Whitey’s made on its behalf for some thirty-five years. (Sandler also provides the “voices” for some deer that show up periodically to offer magical assistance to Whitey when he’s in trouble, but the less said about them the better.)
Theoretically a story along these lines could have been turned into something reasonably attractive, but theory hasn’t become practice here. The script is a dreadful combination of the abysmally sappy and the appallingly crass, with dialogue and song lyrics so blue that they’ll make almost anyone blush, and an avalanche of gags involving flatulence and excrement so overwhelming that they give the word “gag” new meaning. (Amazingly, the coarseness wasn’t deemed sufficient justification for an R rating from the MPAA; “Nights” is listed as PG-13, but parents are advised that unless you’re happy to have your kids hear gutter language, you should keep them well away from it.) Characters that are meant to be adorable are instead intolerable (e.g., the whining Whitey), while those intended to be unpleasant are nasty in spades. And though it’s nice to have Christmas and Chanukah equally involved in a holiday film, both are pretty much trashed here through the crudest kind of commercialization; the local mall is treated almost like a cathedral, and personifications related to stores like Foot Locker and Victoria’s Secret are depicted as almost angelic beings. (The amount of product placement, incidentally, is phenomenal.) Voices for some secondary characters are provided by Sandler’s old SNL buddies, but without any distinction, and the quality of animation, apart from some snowy sequences, is at best mediocre.
There are two extras that deserve mention. The feature is preceded by a two-minute featurette involving Sandler’s bulldog out alone on the town; it’s sort of like a canine version of “Jackass,” but offers a couple of mild chuckles. Then, over the final credits, Sandler warbles a new version of the Chanukah Song. It’s not worth waiting for.
One of the other tunes warbled in “Eight Crazy Nights” is called “Technical Foul.” At least there’s some honesty in that, because the movie itself is certainly foul enough.