As if searching for some nonexistent middle ground between the cartoon raunchiness of "South Park" and the innocuous banality of a cheap children's Christmas special, Adam Sandler has now weaseled his way into the animation and holiday genres with "Adam Sandler's 8 Crazy Nights."
A sub-formulaic slap in the face to seasonal cheer, it's a movie about an acrimonious, 33-year-old layabout with Sandler's voice and Sandler's doltish manner whom we're also supposed to laugh along with as he makes fun of fat little kids and kicks port-a-potties down snowy hills with people inside. But the movie also expects us to view him as a big jerk with a tormented soul who is badly in need of a "Christmas Carol"-type personality breakthrough.
Sentenced after a drunken rampage to doing community service as a youth basketball referee (depicted in exactly one scene of the movie), the cartoon Sandler is taken in by a fellow ref who feels sorry for him -- a kindly, seizure-prone, 70-year-old midget gimp with a shrill, whimpering, falsetto voice (also Sandler's). But he treats the old man (and everyone else) like garbage until he finally has an overdue cry about how his parents died when he was 12, then sees the error of his ways just before the credits roll.
I don't know who Sandler's target audience is for this movie. It's too simplistic for adults -- even by Sandler's dumb-is-funny low standards. But it's loaded with enough swearing and scatological humor (e.g. deer eating human feces) that no responsible parent would take a kid to see it. My working theory is that Sandler is deliberately making worse and worse movies just to see how long it will take before people wise up and stop making him rich. But until that happens, movies like "8 Crazy Nights" will happen.
The title comes from Sandler's once hilarious, now tiresome "Hanukah Song" (which he keeps revising ad nauseam with new pop-culture-referencing lyrics), but the picture barely makes passing mention of the Jewish holiday, preferring to stay generically seasonal. The term "generic" could also be applied to the movie's setting (a shopping-mall-centric town full of product placement corporate logos), its many humdrum songs, the paint-by-numbers feel of the animation, and the fact that the plot moves forward only because the script says so and not because of anything the characters say or do.
Cartoon Sandler is eventually reformed because that's what happens to heroes in feel-good movies, not because of any true change in his character. He winds up holding hands with a young widow whose kid is in the basketball program, not because he's done anything to make himself seem like a good catch for a single mom, but because schlub movie heroes need girlfriends for their hackneyed happy endings.
Just about the only moment of sincerity in the whole of "8 Crazy Nights" comes early on when the widow's son says, "You know, my mother doesn't like you very much," to which Sandler replies, "I don't like me very much either."
There's no reason either of them -- or any of us -- should. This guy is a worthless bum, and the fact that Sandler expects audiences to swallow his disingenuous change of heart as some kind of holiday warm-fuzzy shows just how little respect the actor has for the people who pay to see his movies.