" I can safely say at this point that we are lost. "
— Heather Donahue, The Blair Witch Project

MRQE Top Critic

Winsor McCay -- The Master Edition

A new DVD offers an opportunity to see films by a master of animation —Andrea Birgers (DVD review...)

Gertie the Dinosaur, born of Winsor McCay

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The two best moments in Adam Sandler’s animated film Eight Crazy Nights come at the very beginning and the very end. In between are 65 minutes of cruelty, humiliation, grossout jokes, and unmemorable songs, and about five minutes of trying to apologize for the other 65.

Wild and Crazy Guy

Davey abuses Whitey and Eleanor for eight nightsAdam Sandler plays Davey Stone, the town thug and loser in little Dukesberry. He is rude to everyone and commits petty crimes, just to make everyone else a little more miserable.

After a drunken vandalism spree, the judge is ready to send him up the river for 10 years, when a strange, furry youth-league basketball referee comes to his aid. Whitey (also voiced by Sandler in a squeaky falsetto) agrees to try to reform Davey, supervising him in community service. Whitey even lets Davey stay with him and his sister Eleanor (Sandler again) after his trailer burns down.

Davey spends time with Whitey only because he has to, and he treats him terribly. You’ve seen the port-a-potty “ride” in the commercials. It’s played for laughs, but it’s just an example of the cruelty and humiliation Davey heaps on Whitey.

Lacking any other reason to exist, the film sets up four payoffs for the ending, which can’t come too soon: Davey’s unopened last letter from his dead parents, Whitey’s desire for a civic pride award, the fate of Eleanor’s long-ago stolen wig, and Davey’s childhood sweetheart who has soured on him since his cynicism and meanness set in.

Wicked Mean

Sandler has essentially played the same character in most of his movies: a decent, but immature guy given to temperamental outbursts. This time, his heart of gold is buried too deep and the transformation of his character from alcoholic jerk to nice guy is too abrupt.

Much of the film’s lack of appeal comes from its mean-spiritedness. Humiliation is funny only when the victim deserves to be taken down a notch. Seeing the way Davey treats Whitey, Eleanor and other decent folks, left me wishing that his character had been allowed to rot in prison.

Worst of all, most of the jokes fall flat. Even the grossout humor elicited only a few chuckles from an audience full of Sandler fans. Though this movie is ostensibly meant to appeal to children, some parents will not appreciate the crude humor and foul language.

The movie tries to redeem itself with a message at the end about treating others with respect. Unfortunately, it’s hard to buy Davey’s Scrooge-like conversion. This attempt to tack on a nice ending can’t overcome the movie’s lethal combination of meanness and bathroom humor.

Spirit of the Season

Eight Crazy Nights begins with an enjoyable live-action short subject. But that promising, surprising, clever opening is the only bright spot until the end credits, featuring Sandler’s third version of his own Hanukkah Song. Neither of these bright spots is bright enough to deserve your attention during this year’s festival of lights.