Forget his sappy nice guy routine from The Wedding Singer, or his retard with the heart of gold from The Waterboy. When it comes to the onscreen personas of Adam Sandler, the former SNL comic is at his best when he's a rage-filled psycho as in Happy Gilmore. (Who else can make a screeching "shaddup!" seem so funny?) This overt anger is what his main character is all about in Eight Crazy Nights, an animated feature that uses the Christmas/Chanukah season as a backdrop for crude humor.
Sandler's voice and image are immortalized in pen and ink as Davey Stone, a mean-spirited has-been with a chip on his shoulder. Once a promising young student with an affinity for basketball, he's now just a 33-year old drunk. After causing an evening of mayhem for the small town of Dukesberry, he is arrested and threatened with ten years in prison. But a kindly old man, local do-gooder Whitey Duvall, gets Davey off the hook by putting him in a community service program under his supervision.
For the sole purpose of avoiding jailtime, Davey accepts this probation, which forces him to spend a lot of time with Whitey and Whitey's twin sister Eleanore. Though they have their ups and downs, Davey slowly learns to be a normal, decent human being again with the help of his two elderly friends and his childhood sweetheart (now the town's hot single mom), Jennifer.
Granted, the story isn't much--but what can you expect from a short cartoon special for the holidays? Take a look at what counts as a Christmas classic of yesteryear, and you'll find plenty of sentimental garbage that's not much different. Eight Crazy Nights is basically a rude version of How the Grinch Stole Christmas, and audiences liked that one enough to pay Jim Carrey $20 million to do a hokey live action remake!
A few Saturday Night Live graduates throw their vocal talents into the mix, including Kevin Nealon, Jon Lovitz, and Rob Schneider. Sandler's main squeeze, Jackie Titone, also gets into the act and lends that sweet voice of hers to the character of Jennifer. The numerous songs that pop up throughout the movie, while rarely memorable, adequately advance the story and set the mood. And the animation has a simple, appealing style similar to that of The Iron Giant.
The humor is crass--a quality most critics loathe, but something I personally enjoy in a juvenile comedy. Sandler is funniest when he's yelling at people, calling them names and telling them to shut up as only he can. Visual gags like Lovitz jabbing Nealon with his hook-hand and Whitey doing "the robot dance" also add to the laughs, as does a strange pack of yammering deer with dirty smiles (yammering courtesy of Sandler).
But in spite of any positives this animated endeavor manages to achieve, there's one giant, inescapable flaw: Whitey and Eleanore are two of the most irritating characters in the history of cartoondom. It's a huge problem that virtually cripples the movie. Both voiced by Sandler, Whitey and his twin sister are sometimes incoherent, often whiny, and always annoying. Absent these pint-sized pests, though, Eight Crazy Nights is an amusing enough way to kill an hour if you're craving low brow comedy and some cheesy sentiment.
Rating: 6.5 out of 10 (0=Abysmal, 5=Average, 10=Excellent)