After garnering a bushel of positive critical notices less than two months ago for his work in Paul Thomas Anderson's Punch-Drunk Love, Adam Sandler now squanders his new-found respectability with another one of his cookie-cutter "lovable loser" vehicles, Adam Sandler's Eight Crazy Nights. Only two elements set this apart from Happy Gilmore, Billy Madison, and Big Daddy: First of all, it's animated; and secondly, this allows the star to play three major characters.
The protagonist (voiced by Sandler, natch) is Davey Stone, a bitter, small-town ne'er-do-well, who lives alone in a tacky trailer. On the first night of Chanukah (the eight wacky nights referenced in the title are the eight nights of Chanukah, here getting its first feature film ever), Davey gets drunk, gets rowdy, and gets busted. The exasperated local judge (Norm Crosby) sentences him to help out doddering basketball coach Whitey Duvall (Sandler again); if he screws up, he's off to the slammer for 10 years.
Whitey is a pathetic old codger whose exceedingly generous, childlike nature has only served to make him the town laughingstock. He lives with his equally grotesque twin sister, Eleanore (Sandler yet again), a bald, paranoid virgin. Whitey's one great dream in life is to win the Patch, an annual award for meritorious service to the community.
Also in the picture is Jennifer (Jackie Titone), Davey's childhood girlfriend, who, having recently been abandoned by her husband, has returned to town with her son Benjamin (Austin Stout). Even Madame Cleo could predict that Davey will bond with the kid, win back Jennifer, confront the past traumas that have made him so misanthropic, and help Whitey fulfill his modest ambition.
Eight Crazy Nights has a PG-13 rating, rare for an animated feature, but fully deserved. Even more than in Sandler's live-action features, the filmmakers -- director Seth Kearsley and a quartet of writers including Sandler, musician Brooks Arthur, Brad Isaacs and frequent Sandler collaborator Allen Covert -- seem to think that the only thing funnier than a fart joke is two fart jokes. Or maybe a dozen fart jokes. Plus a raft of shit, piss, tit, and dick jokes. Not to mention the fat-guy jokes, dialect jokes, and physical deformity jokes. Lots of those, as well -- and none of them particularly inventive or humorous.
If there's any redeeming element in this frequently painful hash, it's the songs. (Have we mentioned that Eight Crazy Nights is a musical?) Written by Sandler and several cowriters, they have more humor than the rest of the film put together.