One has to presume that it was the popularity of Sandler's clever "Chanukah Song" that convinced some poor, misguided studio soul to let him make Hollywood's very first Chanukah-themed movie. Not that the idea of a Chanukah-themed picture is a bad one--the success of so many Christmas-themed classics over the years certainly proves that there's room for at least a few Chanukah flicks. Assuming, that is, that "8 Crazy Nights" doesn't single-handedly destroy the holiday it purports to honor.
Shamelessly borrowing chunks from both "A Christmas Carol" and "It's a Wonderful Life," Sandler and his writing buddies have formed a tired story about a Scrooge-like Jewish kid named Davey (Sandler) whose disdain for everyone and everything somehow stems from a tragedy many years earlier that robbed him of both childhood and family. But with the persistent aid and encouragement of his on-again, off-again friend Whitey, a sweet little old youth basketball league referee who looks like Mister Magoo, he eventually comes around to appreciate the spirit and the meaning of the holiday.
Insipid message films, especially those targeted to kids, are nothing new. In most instances, if left alone, they briefly find an audience and then quietly fade away. But "8 Crazy Nights," which Sandler also co-produced, can't leave well enough alone. Rather than live in obscurity, it must die in infamy, beginning with a belch and descending precipitously into a sewer of vile, uncouth, crude, scatological and frequently offensive bathroom humor so extreme and inappropriate that no parent in their right mind would allow a child to see it, particularly in association with a holiday of religious significance.
Those who had hoped Sandler was beyond his "Big Daddy" phase will be the most disappointed--this is Sandler at his most sub-juvenile, indulging in a level of crassness that scarcely even belongs on an elementary school playground. And in a further exhibition of staggeringly misguided hubris, Sandler performs all three main characters--Davey, Whitey and Whitey's sister Eleanore--lending voices to the latter two that would shatter glass if they were any more annoying.
In the end, Sandler's saving grace may very well be the fact that he is Jewish. Had the same film been made by a non-Jew, it would rightly have been smeared as anti-Semitic and insensitive, possibly even greeted with boycotts. Whatever the outcome, though, Sandler owes both Jews and non-Jews an apology. Voiced by Adam Sandler, Jackie Titone, Austin Stout, Kevin Nealon, Rob Schneider, Norm Crosby and Jon Lovitz. Directed by Seth Kearsley. Written by Brooks Arthur, Allen Covert, Brad Isaacs and Adam Sandler. Produced by Adam Sandler, Jack Giarraputo and Allen Covert. A Columbia release. Animated. Rated PG-13 for frequent crude and sexual humor, drinking, brief drug references. Running time: 76 min