Having now seen "Little Nicky," in which Adam Sandler plays the retarded son of Satan, I have formulated a hypothesis I'm calling the Sandler Theory of Exponentially Obnoxious Returns. It goes something like this:
Adam Sandler goes out of his way to make each gimmick character he plays ("Billy Madison," "Happy Gilmore") more grating than the last, just to see how far he can push it before his easily amused fan base will turn on him.
His most detestable character to date had been "The Waterboy," but that Southern-fried dope was mister congeniality compared to Nicky, the little devil that couldn't. Sandler spends this entire movie with his face screwed up in a hit-by-a-shovel grimace and speaking in a silly, raspy voice like a little kid pretending to be sick so he can stay home from school. There's no joke here. It's just Sandler's version of stretching as an actor.
I'm guessing that in his next picture he'll spend every scene burp-talking his dialogue while his middle finger is jammed up his nose.
But in this picture he just lurches around like a hunch of Notre Dame novelty jack-in-the-box, trying to save the world from his two evil brothers (Rhys Ifans and "Tiny" Lister), who are trying to create a Hell on Earth so they can dethrone their father (Harvey Keitel) in the underworld. Don't try to make sense of it. You'll only hurt yourself.
Satan's only hope of holding onto his kingdom is to send his dim-bulb son to the surface to retrieve his wicked siblings, by force if necessary. Meanwhile, Ifans ("The Replacements," "Notting Hill") and Lister ("The Fifth Element") possess the bodies of public figures (a cardinal, the mayor of New York, Regis Philbin) and advocate big-time sin. Of course, New Yorkers don't need much cajoling.
One talking dog guide to fish-out-of-water sight gags, one gay stereotype roommate, one ugly duckling romance (with a nerdified Patricia Arquette) and dozens of "Saturday Night Live" cameos later, there's a cheap special effects showdown in Central Park that -- not so coincidentally -- harks of a heavy metal concert with horned partygoers in the crowd.
Nicky takes on his evil siblings with new powers of good he's learned from his mom -- an angel, it turns out -- and the rest you can guess because this movie couldn't have been any more simplistic if it had been written in Crayon by a second-grader. (This is no accident. If there's one thing Sandler knows all too well it's that the bulk of his fans needs thing spelled out for them.)
It takes a giggly cameo by Reese Witherspoon -- as the, like, ya know, airheaded Valley gal angel (i.e. his mother) -- to inject the picture with any kind of sustained laughter. And she doesn't turn up until the last 10 minutes.
A few throw-away snickers come courtesy of Rodney Dangerfield (as grandpa Satan), Michael McKean (as a possessed police chief), Quentin Tarantino (as a blind street preacher who goes into convulsions when Nicky walks by), Adolf Hitler (in Hell, wearing a French maid costume and having pineapples shoved up his posterior for all eternity) and an assemblage of wheelchair marathoners that slam headlong into a bus (guilty guffaw).
But Sandler himself isn't responsible for even the smallest cracked smile in the whole course of the movie. He just mugs for the camera, looking out from underneath his greasy, overlong bangs and trying like hell to be as ugly as possible.
By all rights and with few exceptions, everyone involved with this movie should be thoroughly embarrassed. But "Little Nicky" will turn a huge profit, and that's all anyone in Hollywood cares about. It never ceases to amaze me the money and integrity studios are willing to part with to make a profit off of halfwits and 13-year-old boys.
Run time: 90 mins
In Theaters: Friday 10th November 2000
Box Office USA: $38.5M
Distributed by: New Line Cinema
Production compaines: Happy Madison Productions, Avery Pix, New Line Cinema
Contactmusic.com: 1 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 22%
Fresh: 25 Rotten: 90
IMDB: 5.3 / 10
Director: Steven Brill
Starring: Adam Sandler as Nicky, Patricia Arquette as Valerie Veran, Harvey Keitel as Dad, Rhys Ifans as Adrian, Tommy Lister as Cassius, Rodney Dangerfield as Lucifer, Allen Covert as Todd, Peter Dante as Peter, Jonathan Loughran as John, Robert Smigel as Beefy, Reese Witherspoon as Holly, Dana Carvey as Referee, Jon Lovitz as Peeper, Kevin Nealon as Gatekeeper, Michael McKean as Chief of Police, Ozzy Osbourne as Himself, Quentin Tarantino as Deacon