Sandler's Comedy Goes to Hell
By Desson Howe
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, November 10, 2000
Note to self, after watching "Little Nicky": Warn nation Adam Sandler is spawn of Satan.
Adam Sandler is a descendant of the Devil in "Little Nicky."
(New Line Cinema)
No, really. In his latest comedy (for want of a better term),
Sandler is Little Nicky, a shy man-child with a permanently twisted
facial expression and a hunched shuffle, who happens to be the
youngest son of the Devil (Harvey Keitel).
The old man, who's the genial son of the original, hell-founding
Satan (Rodney Dangerfield), is now in his 10,000th year and is
thinking about a successor. But Dad can't bring himself to appoint
either of his nasty older sons, Adrian (Rhys Ifans, the goofy one from
"Notting Hill") or Cassius (Tommy "Tiny" Lister); and Little Nicky's
far too shy and immature to be the new prince of darkness.
Dad decides to stay in charge, which infuriates Adrian and Cassius. They jet out of Hell to wreak havoc on Earth in general, and New
York City in particular. Their insubordinate exit threatens the
satanic cosmos: The gates of hell are violated, no more souls can
enter and father Satan starts to physically deteriorate.
Little Nicky, who loves his dad, has a week to bring these rogues
home (in a special satanic-issue genie bottle) before Pops crumbles
into devil dust. Oh, and while he's at it, he needs to restore the
balance of good and evil on Earth.
His assistant on Earth is a talking bulldog.
So much for the set-up. Naturally, "Little Nicky" is loaded for bear with hell jokes, many of them
mildly amusing, but none big enough to induce major hysteria. We see a
famous, retired quarterback offering his soul for just one more shot at the Super Bowl. ("You
did it for Namath," he points out.) Dangerfield comes out for some of
those "no respect" jokes. And Adolf Hitler, forced to wear a dress,
gets his painful punishment every day, courtesy of a pineapple.
Sandler, who scripted this with Tim Herlihy and Steven Brill, is never one for bright, peppy writing. The story plods along, punctuated by gags that are more silly than inventive.
As always, he depends on a romantic subplot with an attractive
co-star to endear his character to the audience. In this case, it's
Patricia Arquette, who plays a beatific homeless person named Valerie, a sort of Chaplin companion. Except, there's no Charlie Chaplin
hero in this movie, just a slurry-voiced demon-nerd who suggests
Richard III's American love child.
How much you enjoy this movie depends on how funny you find
Sandler talking out the side of his mouth with a gravelly squawk for
the entire movie. Throughout this movie, I dreamed of a speech therapist, a chiropractor and a good hairdresser offering Nicky their
unlimited services. But to no avail. There was some good news. My
16-year-old son (who happens to be named, uh, Adrian), a target audience member for Sandler, was not impressed with the movie at all. He
laughed maybe twice during the whole thing. Adam Sandler cannot be
stopped, I thought. But, at least my Adrian had rejected the dark
"Little Nicky" (PG-13, 84 minutes) Contains bad words, gross-out
material, urination, sexual jokes and situations, marijuana smoking,
and one guy with bare breasts attached to the top of his head.