Directed by Seth Kearsley
November 27, 2002
Alcoholic Davey Stone, after getting in trouble one too many times with the law, is sentenced to community service under the supervision of an elderly referee and must try to reform and abandon his bad ways.
Eight Crazy Nights, which draws its name from the Adam Sandler novelty song, is notable in part for focusing on Jewish characters rather than it is Christian characters around the Christmas season. Or does that make it the Hanukkah season in this case? I do not know. That puts it in a rather unique position among animated holiday features but that does not necessarily make it a holiday feature. Rather it is a feature set during the season(s) but not for the season(s).
And that is one of the issues. There are Jewish characters and a Hanukkah tragedy is central to why Davey is the way he is but in reality Hanukkah does not play a major part in the film nor for that matter does Christmas. It is just a series of events that occur at that time of year and I think that is a little bit unfortunate. I am all for every holiday getting a good TV special or feature film. I hope to return to the days when the family viewing hour had a selection of specials to watch on the networks and you could count on at least one cheap cash grab to hit theaters (if theaters ever come back).
When I go to see a film set around a particular holiday I like to see that particular holiday play a more significant role and given the distinct lack of Hanukkah movies or specials or television episodes it certainly would have made this animated feature stand out more than it currently does. As it is this is notable more for the characters it focuses on and not the season it is set during.
It strikes me that the comedy feels muted in comparison to Adam Sandler’s traditional style. He does some of his standard stuff, but I think he was trying to be more family friendly here than normal at times. Not that it is 100% family friendly. There is plenty of profanity and his character of Davey Stone does give the middle finger at least once to someone among other things. Thus the movie swings between two extremes and comes off feeling like an attempt to be both and only comes up as neither. The thing is Sandler can do entertaining that is also family friendly as shown by his Disney film Bedtime Stories. Yes, Adam Sandler did once do a Disney film and this was before the Hotel Transylvania series. Deciding firmly on what it wanted to be would have been a definite plus for this movie.
The film contains a number of regular/previous Sandler collaborators. For example, his (then future) wife Jackie Titone (Sandler) is Davey’s childhood sweetheart Jennifer whose son Benjamin (Austin Stout) is in the local youth basketball league. Rob Schneider is the film’s narrator as well as Chinese restaurant manager Mr. Chang. The great Kevin Nealon plays Mayor Dewey. Jon Lovitz voices a character missing a hand.
Dylan and Cole Sprouse, whose first big screen appearance was in Big Daddy, make a brief voice cameo as KB Toys soldiers in a mall scene. The gravelly voiced Blake Clark shows up in the same scene as a Radio Shack walkie-talkie. Sandler regular Peter Dante is a Foot Locker referee. Carl Weathers who has had a bit of a career resurgence recently shows up as a GNC bottle. I just think it is so cool that he works with a regular group of people that he seems to like. That is a dream everybody has, and I envy him for being able to do that.
The mall scene where the latter characters appear is supposed to provide a heartwarming moment and allow for Davey to get some real character growth. While sad it does not work out quite like that though. Throughout the film Davey is a little bit too unnecessarily mean to make you feel sympathy for him. It is him doing the right thing but I never felt as if he truly learned anything. He just let go of bottled up grief so maybe that was the point.
Important to Davey’s story is Whitey Duvall (also voiced by Sandler) who is the elderly youth coach that chooses to mentor Davey. Whitey is supposed to provide an emotional means for Davey to grow but it never gets there for me. He is just ridiculously pathetic, and it just falls flat in most cases like him having an imaginary wife. I think his character could have been eliminated and the story would turn out more or less the same. The trailer arson which forces Davey to move in with Whitey never amounts to much. Their interactions felt like needless padding. At 76 minutes maybe they felt that was necessary.
With the inclusion of Jennifer looked like Davey was to have a love interest in her but nothing ever really comes of that too. The character is his childhood love who still holds a flame for him but she is more a side character. More often than not whoever Sandler plays lands a girlfriend by the end of the film but not here. Woman with child usually equates to growth for the male lead. I think Davey’s character arc would have been more effective by beefing her role up and reducing that of Whitey.
Eight Crazy Nights is not hilarious, but it is entertaining. It accomplishes this by having some funny jokes and some entertainingly cringey gross out humor. The film also takes jabs not only at holiday film tropes but also at Disney films. The forest deer that regularly help out during the course of the film is a nice allusion to your standard kindhearted intelligent Disney critter. The animation style is done in the vein of your usual television special and not some glossy or big budget feature film.
Eight Crazy Nights is an unusual entry into animated holiday features. Is it great? No but it is entertaining. I would give this an “if you want.” Not necessary but diverting enough.