Steven Brill's LITTLE NICKY, starring box office champ Adam Sandler as
Little Nicky, is a surprise in more ways than one. Starting off abysmally
bad, it manages to atone for its early sins and turn into a very funny
comedy. The credit for the success of its humor falls on a superlative
supporting cast and a director who manages to coax the most out of each of
them. The special effects and the humorous sets add immensely to the
revelry. One wickedly funny scene features hundreds of charging spiders
with Adam Sandler faces, à la THE FLY.
The negative surprise is that, with raunchy humor like a cross between
AUSTIN POWERS and THE NUTTY PROFESSOR, LITTLE NICKY is a PG-13 comedy that
would have been more appropriately rated R -- more on some of the reasons
The story has Little Nicky's Dad (Harvey Keitel), a.k.a. the Devil,
literally falling apart after his two other sons, Adrian (Rhys Ifans,
NOTTING HILL) and CASSIUS (Tommy Lister) escape to Earth. Unless Nicky can
bring them both back home to Hades, Dad will slowly disintegrate like the
Cheshire cat, leaving only his frown behind. Rodney Dangerfield, in one of
many hilarious cameos, plays Lucifer, Dad's dad. (Quentin Tarantino, in
another of the film's wild and wacky cameos, plays a blind preacher.)
Sandler plays his usual stupid character, only stupider this time. A
bulldog named Beefy serves as his guide in New York City where Nicky's
brothers have gone to wreak chaos worthy of Batman's villains. With lovable
crudeness, the spike-collared dog tells it like it is. Beefy's girlfriend
is a sewer rat.
As Nicky's groupies, two stoner dudes and devil worshipers, Peter (Peter
Dante) and John (Jonathan Loughran), follow him wherever he goes. Patricia
Arquette, as Nicky's sweetness-and-light girlfriend, provides the perfect
complement to a story brimming with wickedness.
Although a cogent case could be made for Beefy's being the best part of the
movie, my vote would go to Reese Witherspoon (ELECTION and PLEASANTVILLE),
who plays an angel named Holly. After setting most of the film in either
hell or New York City -- yes, you can tell the difference -- the story
switches briefly to visit a heaven that looks like a parody of the Robin
Williams film, WHAT DREAMS MAY COME. Holly is the reigning teen princess in
the land of the eternally juvenile. Witherspoon, an extremely intelligent
actress who usually plays control freaks, is a ditzy Valley girl type this
time. She plays wonderfully against type, and her every word and gesture
had me in stitches.
The level of sexual humor and language should have gotten the film an R
rating. The movie opens with a peeping tom (Jon Lovitz) in a tree, spying
on a woman getting undressed in her bedroom. This causes him to go straight
to hell, literally. Other stronger bits of crude humor include a
transvestite (Clint Howard) getting his kicks from hot wax on his nipples,
Hitler (Christopher Carroll) in a frilly dress being tortured by having
pineapples shoved up his rear and Hell's Gatekeeper (Kevin Nealon) being
punished by having breasts grow out of his head.
From the angels we get the inside scoop on God's brain power. "God is so
smart!" says one angel. "Like Jeopardy smart!" adds another. And LITTLE
NICKY, for all of its coarseness, is a surprisingly smart comedy. It's the
first Adam Sandler film that I've ever recommended. (I could almost
recommend THE WEDDING SINGER.) But, as I said, it is the ensemble cast, not
Sandler himself, that makes LITTLE NICKY sizzle.
LITTLE NICKY runs 1:28. It is officially rated PG-13 for crude sexual
humor, some drug content, language and thematic material, but, as I said, I
think an R would have been more appropriate. Depending on the kid, the
movie would be acceptable for kids around 12 or 13, and up but take in
account my previously mentioned examples.
My son Jeffrey, age 11, thought the movie was pretty good and gave it **
1/2. His favorite character was the bulldog. His friend John, age 12,
thought the film was a really good comedy and gave it *** 1/2. His favorite
character was Dad's dad. John's twin, Steven, thought it was really funny
and gave it ***. His favorite characters were the stoner dudes. All of the
boys commented that the film should have been rated R.
Copyright © 2000 Steve Rhodes