Tuesday, December 5, 2023

Eight Crazy Nights

76 Wasted Minutes

What's it about?

Tonight's nostalgic pic is "Eight Crazy Nights" (Columbia Pictures, 2002). Davey Stone (Adam Sandler) is a public nuisance during the holidays, getting drunk, dine-and-dashing, stealing from his neighbors, and ultimately destroying Dukesberry's holiday decorations, giant ice sculptures in the shape of Santa Clause and a menorah awkwardly placed by one another in the center of town.

Honestly, this is probably just Adam Sandler before SNL

He's swiftly caught and almost sentenced to prison when a 70-year-old man named Whitey (also voiced by Adam Sandler) offers to take stewardship of Davey while he referees youth basketball, a sport which Davey dominated in his youth.
The moment this guy comes on screen, abandon all hope of entertainment.

Davey quickly begins to cause headaches for Whitey, but after being reunited with his childhood sweetheart, Jennifer (Jackie Titone, later married to Adam Sandler in real life) and her son, Benjamin (Austin Stout), Davey begins to take an interest in teaching the boy how to play basketball.
Generic character model, meet generic voice actress.

This is cut short when Davey's trailer is burned down leaving him homeless.
The movie depicts this as arson, but veterans of trailer park fires know that it didn't have to be.

Whitey takes Davey in to live with him and his sister, the equally diminutive Eleanore (ALSO VOICED BY ADAM SANDLER).
Just when you think that the movie can't get any worse, it doubles down.

Just when it appears that Davey is starting his upward climb, he begins to slide again. Can Davey get his life back on track and help the people he loves?

Some background

This is a "Happy Madison" production, and as such it features Adam Sandler and quite a few of his "Saturday Night Live" alumni in various roles, as well as several of his friends who turn up in minor roles, mostly animated to look like their real-life counterparts, including Kevin Nealon as the Dukesberry mayor and Jon Lovitz in a brief cameo.

Yep. That's Jon Lovitz all right...

Other stars associated with Happy Madison show up as minor cameos, including Carl Weathers and Tyra Banks.

The bad

Hey, remember when Adam Sandler made funny movies? They were weird, loud, and a little bit offensive, but they were funny! That was over by the time this came out. THIS MOVIE IS HORRIBLE. Let's break down why:

The Cast

Adam Sandler plays the three main characters in this movie: Davey, Whitey, and Eleanore, and while I can laud his performance of Eleanore (it's pretty good), the character and voice performance of Whitey is outright insulting. The character's voice is irritating, as it's just Adam Sandler doing a falsetto. If you haven't seen the movie, you might not realize just how annoying this character sounds. Most of the cast are not professional voice actors, and unfortunately, it's pretty noticeable. Hey, who's that who does the outwardly racist performance of the Chinese restaurateur? Why, it's our good friend on-the-record xenophobe and Republican apologist Rob Schneider, doing a funny voice! Look how funny!

"Screw this movie." -Roger Ebert, probably.

Screw this movie.

The Animation

At first glance, you'll marvel at how good the animation in this movie is. It almost looks like a Disney "renaissance" picture, with soft colored linework, solid character models, and that colorful style. On second look, you'll begin to notice something seems amiss, but it's still good; it looks a lot like the animation and character design from 1999's "The Iron Giant." Still a good movie with decent animation, right? On the third look, it hits you: Whatever the voice actor is emoting, the characters seem dead-eyed and unreactive. Every character looks like they're using the same deadpan expression, ranging from "tired" to "extremely tired," to "oh crap, they forgot to draw on the eyelids." In short, it looks better than it has a right to be, but still isn't as good as it first appears.

You'll know what I'm talking about when you see it.

The Music

While the singing was happening (yes, this is a musical to an extent), I remember thinking, "this isn't very good." But after the movie was over, I couldn't remember a single one, except Sandler's reprisal of "The Chanukah Song" that plays over the end credits. This was common for animated films of the time: Stretch out the time of your extremely short, animated movie by adding messy and unnecessary musical numbers (see: "South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut"). If anyone complains about the lack of quality, just say "that's the joke, plebian!"

The Holiday

Look, I get that there aren't a lot of Chanukah movies out there. I get that there are other religions and faiths that are underrepresented during the Christmas season. But here's the rub: If you're going to make a movie to address this, why not make Chanukah the theme? This movie goes out of its way to mention Judaism, Chanukah, menorahs, and dreidels, and then puts all of this stuff in the background and basically ignores it for the entire movie. The most religious thing in the movie is the town's mall -- I'm not making that up. Whitey goes to the mall to clear his head. A drunk Davey breaks into the mall and is assaulted by hallucinations in the form of store logos (real stores with real product placement in this movie, by the way, although many of them have since gone out of business… RIP KB Toys…).

People "of a certain age" will recognize these brands.

Whitey in his lowest moment goes to a darkened mall and gets sympathy from the store logos. Even the whole town meets at the mall at the end to cheer Whitey. It's just… bizarre (and a little bit icky). It's so bad, in fact, that when Davey finally has his emotional epiphany it's hard for the audience (or at least me) to feel anything.

Don't watch with kids

This one's not for kids. It's clearly meant to be an adult comedy, with some swearing and very adult gross-out humor (way too much of it), which is ironic because this is exactly the sort of lowbrow tripe many kids like. You won't be having fun, but your kids would because of all the dirty stuff that isn't original or funny.

Why would you watch this? Sorry, I mean, where can you find it?

As of this writing, "Eight Crazy Nights" is streaming on Amazon Prime video for no extra cost but do yourself a favor and skip it.

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