The meteoric rise of Adam Sandler in the 1990s was probably unseen and despised by many critics that started the decade with Jim Varney as Ernest P. Worrell, transitioned to Pauly Shore, then to Jim Carrey and finally to Sandler all within about five years. I’m sure a lot of critics hated their jobs as they had to wait at least once a year for whatever Merchant-Ivory period piece Oscarbait could hit theaters. Thankfully, they had the independent movie boom of the decade to satisfy their egos.
I’m not saying that those movies were bad nor the movies of Varney, Shore, Carrey and Sandler were unfairly snubbed each year by the Oscars. You have to have some diversity in life. I think it was necessary for Sandler to portray his angry manchild persona in movies especially since he was able to reign it back in with The Wedding Singer, a surprise hit romcom in 1998. Later he had a bigger hit with the “foos-ball” comedy The Waterboy. He was now an A-lister.
Not bad for a guy who had started out with a recurring role on a few episodes of The Cosby Show as well as MTV Remote Control. Bobcat Goldthwait cast him in Shakes the Clown, a movie that has to be seen to be believed. After the surprise hit of Wayne’s World in 1992, Lorne Michaels, the God overseeing Saturday Night Live, rushed many movies into production featuring his cast members. Sandler was cast in one scene in Coneheads as a document forger. He later had his big-screen starring debut with Billy Madison. (Going Overboard has even said it’s a “no-budget” movie.)
So, with great power comes great responsibility. The Gen Xers and Millennials who watched Sandler’s brand of humor in the 1990s were waiting to see what would happen next. In 1996, he had a hit song “The Chanukkah Song” and word spread of an animated movie in the works. This wasn’t digital animation where they could bang a cartoon out faster. This took a process. And it makes me wonder when did they know it was going to be bad?
I’m sure Sandler and his motley crew of comics and actors (Rob Schneider, Jon Lovitz, Allen Covert, Kevin Nealon and Blake Clark among others) probably had a helluva time goofing around. Even though voice roles are usually recorded over a few days separately, I’m sure they were in separate booths joking with each other. But that’s only for a few days.
This movie at 76 minutes including credits probably took a long time to design and animate. I’m wondering what the animators thought as they were having to come to work every day to do this movie. I feel it must be similar to what animators who have done hentai and have had to animate a big-breasted school girl get raped by a creature with multiple penises. Someone probably went to a good school hoping to do something of their own one day, but they have to pay their dues. And whoever did this movie paid their dues, animating deer licking frozen feces off a character, shaving a unibrow on a woman’s forehead and letting out a long belch.
That long belch explains a lot about this movie. It’s one long belch done over and over again because people might think it’s funny. Even at 76 minutes, this movie seems awfully long the same way you’ve sat in a classroom that you didn’t want to be in hearing material you didn’t care about. It drags on and on.
The plot involves Sandler voicing (and resembling) the main character, Davey Stone, an alcoholic troublemaker in a New England hamlet town who becomes a referee at the community gymnasium after an elderly man, Whitey Duvall (also voiced by Sandler) asks the judge to take leniency on him to do community service instead of jail time. Whitey should be called “Whiney” because his voice sounds like that.
After his trailer is set on fire by someone Davey has crossed, he goes and lives with Whitey and his twin sister, Eleanor (also voiced by Sandler). Of course, Davey initially does everything he can to get on Whitey’s nerves. He just stands around as a referee. He commits petty shoplifting and also throws Whitey in a port-a-potty, so he’ll get covered in excrement and rinses him off causing Whitey to freeze.
The movie is set over the course of Hanukkah and we learn through a flashback that Davey’s parents were killed en route to a basketball game he was playing in at 12 during Hanukkah, causing him to spend the next 20 years being a petty criminal and abuse alcohol. Whitey, himself, has always been wanting to get an annual community award, but has been overlooked for over 30 years. So, yadda-yadda-yadda, they both realize they can learn something from each other and end up better people.
Sandler wrote and sung “The Chanukkah Song” because he said there weren’t many songs about Hanukkah. And there aren’t that many movies about Hanukkah. Considering that Sandler resorts to stereotypical cliched Jewish tropes, I can see why. Other comics, such as Mel Brooks and Jon Stewart, also used these tropes but they did them that made you want to laugh. What Sandler and Co. do here is tell tired jokes that aren’t as funny as they want them to be.
Like I said, I think they knew they were making crap and just gave up. This is the 2000s version of The Emoji Movie. The jokes fall flat. Worse, there’s a lot of songs to pad the length and the songs are most forgettable except for a song in which Whitey sings about doing something wrong is a technical foul.
The same year this was released, Sandler also appeared in Paul Thomas Anderson’s drama Punch-Drunk Love which was a great performance. He also started to focus on more serious roles after this, even though he continued to make the bottom of the barrel comedies he is known for. Some of his choices have been thought-provoking. The Cobbler didn’t get good reviews but it was a different style of movie. You’d hear about Sandler playing a simple old-fashioned shoe cobbler who uses a special machine that he can literally walk in the people’s shoes as them and think it’s another one of his silly comedies. Yet, it ended up having some good moments.
And his role as a compulsive gambler in Uncut Gems really drove to the heart of how gamblers are more driven by the prospect of winning rather than actually winning. I agree with a lot of other people that Sandler was snubbed for a Best Actor Oscar nomination. But when you’ve made some really bad movies, it’s hard to win the Academy’s good graces. Henry Fonda made some awful movies for a while, but they couldn’t deny him On Golden Pond.
That being said, in a world where Matthew McConaughey can shed his himbo persona to play totally different characters in Killer Joe and Dallas Buyer’s Club, winning an Oscar for the latter, anything is possible.
Unfortunately, Eight Crazy Nights is nothing to celebrate regardless of what your religion is. Considering it was a box-office bomb as well as getting bad reviews means there’s only so much his hard-core fans can tolerate. But it’s a surprisingly lot worse than the successful Jack and Jill.