Little Nicky

Laura Clifford
Robin Clifford

After a 10,000 year rule, Satan (Harvey Keitel) decides to stay on the throne instead of turning it over to one of his three sons. That's fine by Little Nicky (Adam Sandler), but not his brothers Adrian (Rhys Ifans, "Notting Hill") and Cassius (Tommy 'Tiny' Lister, Jr.), who decide to leave their hellish home and create their own on Earth. Their departure freezes the gates of hell, causing Papa demon to begin to decompose, so it's up to Little Nicky to save the world and his dad by returning his two brothers to Hell.

Laura:
Adam Sandler movies are definitely an 'acquired' taste. I've always found him likeable, even in his subpar outings ("The Wedding Singer" is really the only of his films that succeeds outside of his own genre). While that's the case here as well, "Little Nicky" is otherwise so torturously awful that it makes one wonder how the highly paid Sandler could foist such bogus product into the marketplace.

This is the type of comedy that attempts to get yucks by having Hitler appear in a French maid's outfit to have Satan place a pineapple where the sun don't shine. The 'story' is just a long, drawn out 90 minute affair of having Nicky learn to do human things like eat (Popeye's Chicken is Sandler's fast food product placement of choice in this outing) and sleep, and attempt to get his more powerful, smarter brothers info a magical flask aided by Beefy, a talking demon bulldog (voice of Robert Smigel). He also falls in love with an awkward design student (Patricia Arquette) and ends up with a roommate, Todd (Allen Covert, "Big Daddy"), implied to be gay (more uproariousness!).

It's amazing to see all the misguided people who show up in this clunker. First there's the seemingly brilliant casting of Keitel, who's never been more dreadful. His dad, Lucifer, is played by Rodney Dangerfield, milking hoary laughs in a pitiful walk through. Jon Lovitz appears as a sinner, reminding us that any good performance he's gotten onto film must have been an accident. Michael McKean is the chief of police. Quentin Tarantino is a blind street preacher who 'smells' the devil (and overacts atrociously). Clint Howard proves that he's the most shameless actor working in film today. Rob Schneider appears to repeat his 'you can do it' encouragements from "The Waterboy." Dana Carvey takes on Nicky on the basketball court (amidst the real Harlem Globetrotters no less). Carl Weathers, Regis Philbin, Kevin Nealon, Ellen Cleghorne, Henry Winkler, Ozzy Osbourne....what were they all thinking? At least the terrifically talented Reese Witherspoon provides a bubbly bright spot as a Valley Girlish angel.

Technically the film averages out to mediocrity. Hell's a blatant make believe soundstage, costume is obvious, makeup nothing special. Post dubbing of dialogue appears to be synched incorrectly in several scenes. Steven Brill's (writer of all THREE Mighty Ducks movies) direction is pedestrian at best.

There are maybe 3 laughs in the entire film (written by Tim Herlihy, Adam Sandler and Steven Brill). Nicky returns to hell whenever he dies, fairly frequently and sometimes amusingly. Sandler also gets a couple of laughs from rock music references. That's IT.

Concept 7-8. Execution 0.

D-

Robin:
Nicky (Adam Sandler) is a good boy, a sweet boy. He is also the spawn of the Devil (Harvey Keitel). Dad has been on the throne of Hell for 10,000 years, but decides not to abdicate to any of his three sons. Nicky's elder brothers Adrian (Rhys Ifans) and Cassius (Tom "Tiny" Lister, Jr.) have designs on dad's throne and the pair vamoose to the mortal world to upset the delicate balance between good and evil. This upheaval would mean the end of Satan and it's up to Nicky to go after his malevolent siblings and bring them back to Hell to save his Daddy in "Little Nicky."

Adam Sandler is an extraordinarily likable actor and comedian who captured the hearts of American moviegoers with his comedy/romance "The Wedding Singer." He solidified his icon status (and a $20 million paycheck) with the good-natured and goofy "The Water Boy," then again with the malevolent hit, "Big Daddy." Now, the comedian takes on his biggest role every - the Son of Satan.

On the surface, this should be a ready-made laugher that just has to capitalize on the good-versus-evil nature of the story and the comic presence of Sandler. Nicky has a sweet disposition even if he is the demon seed of the Devil. He has no designs to replace his Prince of Darkness dad and seems like the wrong one to send to earth to bring back his brothers. Adrian and Cassius team up to corrupt the morals of man and replace Satan in Hell. The demonic duo engineer such heinous events as lowering the drinking age to ten and changing New York's logo to "I Love Hookers." When they take over Hell, they want to be sure they have a lot of new clients.

As Nicky endeavors to capture his bad brothers, he falls for a good-hearted mortal woman name Valerie (Patricia Arquette). This proves a problem as Nicky is torn between his mission and his budding love for Valerie, jeopardizing daddy's wellbeing. This complicates things, as Nicky has to worry about his newly found love as well as saving his daddy.

The problem with "Little Nicky" is that it is a comedy without humor. The screenplay, by Tim Herlihy, wastes most opportunities for laughs on routine pratfalls and lame devil on earth jokes. Some attempt at cleverness comes with the arrival of two goofy dudes, Pete and John (Peter Dante and Jonathan Loughran), but these apostles are more like Led Zeppelin hangers on than disciples of the potential anti-Christ. Another sadly executed gag involves Curt Howard (Ron's brother) dressing in drag - there was something funny about this in concept that is woefully humorless in execution. The script also makes reference to Roberto Benigni's "The Monster," but fails to capitalize on this, and to "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" and "Frankenstein." It goes nowhere with these paths and just drops the thread of these plot lines. Oh, yeah. The big battle for command of Hell is a pillow fight

There is good-naturedness to Nicky that makes the character likable despite the inane happenings around him. Sandler comes out best in a bad movie with his self-effacing charm and niceness - you come to find out that Dad made it with an angel (Reese Witherspoon) eons ago and Nicky was the result of that union. The vast supporting cast around Nicky is made up of a who's who list in Hollywood that, unfortunately, has little to do. Rodney Dangerfield (as grandpa Lucifer), Dana Carvey, Jon Lovitz, Quentin Tarantino, Kevin Neelon, Michael McKean, Carl Weathers, Rob Schneider, Henry Winkler, Ozzie Osbourne and Regis Philbin, among others, make their appearances in cameo perfs. It is a real waste of riches as no one has anything funny to do or say.

Techs are good, but even visions of Hell can't save "Little Nicky." I give it a D.

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