out of 4
All-Reviews.com Movie/Video Review
Starring: Sdam Sandler, Patricia Arquette|
Director: Steven Brill
RunTime: 84 Minutes
Release Date: November 2000
Review by Dustin Putman
2 stars out of 4
Adam Sandler movies are easily an acquired taste--aside from almost all young
teenage boys, who eat them up--and with every film he makes where he plays a
normal guy whose ability to make audiences laugh comes from his charisma and
talent, there are at least two movies that rely on him to be quirky and
intellectually deficient, complete with a speech impediment. "Little Nicky,"
directed by Steven Brill, falls into the latter, lesser category, as his
title character walks with a hunched-over back, has a crooked mouth, and,
yes, a speech impediment. Sandler can be a great comic, but only with the
right material, and when he doesn't try so hard. Here, he is afforded no help
by the lame, forgettable screenplay that he cowrote with Tim Herlihy and
director Brill. Is "Little Nicky" funny? Sometimes. But in the annals of the
wildly popular Sandler flicks, this one falls into the same league as 1998's
"The Waterboy"--better than 1995's stupefying "Billy Madison," but not as
good as 1996's "Happy Gilmore" or 1999's "Big Daddy," and worlds below his
one great picture, 1998's "The Wedding Singer."
Although he has a wonderful relationship with his father, the Devil (Harvey
Keitel), Little Nicky (Adam Sandler) is a sweet, good-natured soul who
doesn't seem to have much of the dark side in him, despite living in hell.
With his father's 10,000-year reign to the purgatorial throne drawing to a
close, it is up to him to choose one of his sons to succeed him. The only
problem is, the Devil doesn't feel like his oldest boys, Adrian (Rhys Ifans)
and Cassius (Tommy "Tiny" Lister Jr.), are mature enough to handle it, and
Nicky is far too "heavenly." Adrian and Cassius, outraged at their father's
decision, escape to New York City and plan to derail all laws, creating a
Hell on Earth.
With his body already beginning to deteriorate, the Devil sends Nicky out
into the world above to find Cassius and Adrian and get them to drink from a
magic-lamp-like flask that will suck and trap them in it for eternity.
Partnered up with a wise bulldog named Mr. Beefy (voice by Robert Smigel),
Nicky rents an apartment with an in-the-closet Broadway show fanatic (Allen
Covert) and begins to search for his brothers. He even meets a cute fashion
design major named Valerie (Patricia Arquette), all the while starting to
feel strong emotions he's never felt before.
Aside from the whole Heaven and Hell angle, "Little Nicky" is nearly a carbon
copy, in terms of plot developments and stock characters, of all of Sandler's
starring-role filmography. There is always a sidekick or two, with at least
one of them gay, and there is a token love interest that he has a falling-out
with due to a misunderstanding, but whom get back together before the end
credits. There even is a person or two who stand in the way of the main
character's wants and dreams. While the tried-and-true formula isn't solely
relegated to movies with Adam Sandler, it is finally beginning to wear out
its welcome. We've seen all of this before, and done much better and with far
more charm ("The Wedding Singer"). Here, even the romance between Sandler and
Patricia Arquette comes off as a slight, unfeeling subplot that isn't given
hardly any screen time to develop.
With Sandler doing his usual schtick, there is some admitted fun in the large
supporting players. Arquette, as the mousy Valerie, is winning, but given
very little to do, while Harvey Keitel and Rodney Dangerfield, as the Devil
and Lucifer, are very funny. Dangerfield, especially, gets a few zinger
lines, including a clever placement for his getting "no respect" motto. Jon
Lovitz, as a peeping tom who dies in the opening scene, left to be sexually
violated by a giant black crow for all of eternity, is priceless, and his
brief subplot in the opening is comically superior to anything else in the
movie. Kevin Nealon, as a demon who grows a pair of buxom breasts on the top
of his head, is eccentrically repulsive.
Saving the best for last, the effervescently gifted and beautiful Reese
Witherspoon shows up near the end as Sandler's loving and ageless mother, a
heavenly angel who hangs out with her Valley Girl-style friends, and steals
the show. Why Witherspoon agreed to be a part of such a waste of a movie is
unknown, but for her ten minutes of screen time, she steals your heart and
manages to tickle your funny bone in a fresh and innocent way. Aside from
her, the film leaves you feeling oddly unclean with its repugnant premise and
Laden with cheesy special effects galore, and not without a seemingly
required helping of toilet humor and sexual innuendo (Adolf Hitler, for
example, gets a pineapple showed up his backside while wearing a maid's
uniform at four o'clock every day as his punishment). "Little Nicky" is
marginally enjoyable, and not exactly a downright failure, but it is
uninspired. A divergence for the eyes and little else, the movie has the
ability to stay with you for about as long as its slim 84-minute running
time, and then exits from your memory. Not exactly a sign of comedic
brilliance, or a sign of being that good at all.
Copyright © 2000 Dustin Putman
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