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Little Nicky

movie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: Little Nicky

Starring: Sdam Sandler, Patricia Arquette
Director: Steven Brill
Rated: PG-13
RunTime: 84 Minutes
Release Date: November 2000
Genre: Comedy

*Also starring: Rhys Ifans, Harvey Keitel, Tiny Lister, Jr., Dana Carvey, Rodney Dangerfield, Jon Lovitz, Kevin Nealon, Robert Smigel, Quentin Tarantino

Review by Harvey Karten
No Rating Supplied

Dogs in movies can be awfully cute but they do not often steal the show. When they do, the film is in trouble. The humor in even the funniest movie of the year so far, "Best in Show," comes from the eccentric owners of the terriers and hounds and other breeds and not from the four-legged creatures who are primped and primed for the canine competition of the year. So when you hear that Beefy, the talking bulldog in the latest Adam Sandler vehicle, draws the one or two laughs that the Steven Brill's film evokes, you know you're in for the kind of audience hell that the filmmakers did not have in mind.

To my mind, Sandler's only successful picture was "The Wedding singer," because Frank Coraci's 1998 film is imbued with Drew Barrymore's charm and has the grace to tell a solid, heartwarming story during its 96-minute run. By contrast, "Little Nicky" is a patched-together quilt of Saturday Night Live sketches featuring some embarrassing skits by members of that TV troupe, especially by Jon Lovitz as a peeping Tom who is blasted by a kid's sling shot while pretending to be Big Bird and who plummets immediately down to hell.

While Steven Brill's concept of Hades offers a traditional, Dante-esque view not in keeping with the Church's contemporary interpretations, the place does seem more interesting than the heaven which is rendered toward the conclusion of the story. A power struggle is in progress that brings to mind the Gore-Bush election tussle. Like Marcus Aurelius in Ridley Scott's "Gladiator," Satan (Harvey Keitel) seems about to leave his post, but after all, his is a reign longer than those of Fidel Castro and Queen Victoria combined. When he decides that a 10,000-year rule is merely an internship and announces that he will stay on, his two sons Adrian (Rhys Ifans) and Cassius (Tom Lister Jr.) decide to overthrow him by escaping from hell into the bowels of New York City. Talk about frying pan into fire! But a third son, Nicky (Adam Sandler)--like Shakespeare's Cordelia-- loves his dad and is determined to save him. Satan is in the throes of a progressive deterioration of body parts. Nicky must head to New York--his first visit to Earth-- to entice the two wayward fellows into a bottle within a week to make Satan's body whole once again.

As though ingressing from another movie, Rodney Dangerfield appears from time to time to complain that "even in hell I get no respect." Dana Carvey is almost unrecognizable in the role of a possessed basketball referee who at one point has members of the Harlem Globetrotters banging their heads against a wall (funny, funny) and political incorrectness holds sway when a blind preacher (Quentin Tarantino) storms and rages down 42nd Street and a group of wheelchair-bound athletes tear out from their basketball game to chase Nicky--who has been framed as a mass- murderer. A couple of silly skits featuring Adolph Hitler in drag trivializes National Socialism.

The obligatory computer generation takes the form of a powerful stream of steamy dog urine and only a single instance of vomit. Nicky's goodness is reflected in two characters; Patricia Arquette in a Mia Farrow-esque role as the object of his affection, and Reese Witherspoon as the leader of a band of angels who all talk like Valley girls.

A hell of a ride? No way. Crude and vulgar? Fine. But unfunny? Inexcusable.

Copyright 2000 Harvey Karten

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