Movie Magazine International

Little Nicky

USA - 2000

Movie Review By Casey McCabe

Somewhere in the frothy netherworld between heaven and hell, there is Adam Sandler. And no, I'm not necessarily talking about his new film "Little Nicky," in which he plays the son of the devil. I'm talking about Adam Sandler. Just when Jim Carrey started confounding people by receiving critical acclaim from acclaimed critics, Sandler emerged as the lightening rod for all that is good and evil in Hollywood.

He is good. In a world of volatile tech stocks, Adam Sandler is, of all things, a blue chip. A brand name. His films make millions. He gives the gift of laughter. He means no harm. Why fight it, you book-reading melon heads?

He is evil. The phrase "an Adam Sandler vehicle" should not exist, yet it does. He commands $20 million a movie, giving false hope to fellow talents like Tim Meadows. He's not even Jim Carrey, for God's sakes. In the dumbing down of America, Sandler beckons us to stoop even lower.

And so we wade into "Little Nicky," a film that in no way settles this debate, leaving America torn apart at its very seams. Like legions of class clowns and lifes-of-the-party before him, Sander's first rule of laughter is to contort the face and affect a speech impediment. Since there wasn't anything inherent in playing the devil's son, Sandler and longtime writing partner Tim Herlihy put in a quick backstory about Little Nicky's brother hitting him in the face with a shovel. Voila, Sandler gets to spend the whole film slurring out the side of his mouth. If I wanted to get clinical about it, I'd say Sandler suspects the tenuous range of his acting talent, and uses devices like this as a crutch. And I'd be lying if I said this sheepishness isn't part of Sandler's very charm.

Basically, "Little Nicky" shows what Saturday Night Live could do if it wasn't live: stretch premises and characters to an hour and forty minutes, get some laughs from higher production values, and improve the hit and miss ratio of its bits by a modest percentage. The film is stocked with SNL alumni, though most are tossed only the leanest of scraps. Meatier supporting roles are given to Harvey Keitel as the Devil, Rhys Ifans as the truly devilish brother, and Sandler regular Allen Covert as Nicky's earthly roommate. Far too late in the film we discover that Nicky's mother is a teen angel, played deliciously by Reese Witherspoon. If the rest of "Little Nicky" would have kept up with this most excellent segment, we could have had the first Adam Sandler comic masterpiece on our hands.

As it stands, criticizing an Adam Sandler movie is kind of like shooting fish in a barrel. So I'm going to take a courageous stand and admit that the half-dozen genuine out loud laughs I got from "Little Nicky" were exactly six better than nothing. And no, I can't bring myself to hate Adam Sandler and everything he stands for. That would be like resenting professional wrestling for trying to pull a fast one.

Adam Sandler and "Little Nicky" are made for the malls and the multiplexes. And if that's your idea of hell, you already know enough to stay away.

© 2000 - Casey McCabe - Air Date: 11/15/00

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