by Greg Muskewitz
How scary is that? How scary is knowing that an Adam Sandler movie is the most recommendable thing of the week? "The best new release." I'm shivering, but you just can't see it. A couple weeks ago, I got sent up to L.A. to catch an early screening of this and then attend a Q&A with Sandler, Patricia Arquette, director Steve Brill, and a couple of other castmates. Without question, they're a fun group of people --especially Arquette ("Nader's in the house!"), who is one of my favorite actresses. And if there's one thing that's apparent from their real personalities, it carried over into "Little Nicky."Adam Sander is Little Nicky, one of the three sons of the current devil (Harvey Keitel --his father: Rodney Dangerfield). The other two, Adrian (Rhys Ifans) and Cassius (Tommy "Tiny" Lister) are the big baddies, while Nicky is a nerd with a dorky haircut, and smashed/twisted face who listens to heavy metal music alone in his room. When "Dad" announces he's not going to overturn the thrown to any of them for another 10,000-year rule, Adrian and Cassius blow Hell to create havoc on Earth.
"Freakier than fun. Sandler rules the week's releases."
However, that will prompt the equilibrium of good and evil to be thrown off and for their dad to deteriorate (but not as badly as the cast from "Requiem for a Dream"), so "Dad" sends Nicky to Earth to retrieve them. On his Earthbound days (or New York-bound days), he's guided by a bulldog named Beefy, rooms with an actor (Allen Covert), and falls in love with a geeky fashion student named Valerie (Arquette). Accoutered in a giant pillow-jacket and gloves to keep warm from the "streets" of NY, the race is on before the devil is just a pair of lips.
One thing that gets "Little Nicky" farther than all of Sandler's other movies (with the exception of "The Wedding Singer") is the setting forth of a concept --other than that of an over extended SNL sketch-- and keeping constant with it. "Little Nicky" is by no means brimming with high-concept or skill, but it pushes onward, smirking and happily. It certainly is crude and crass, but the wide variety of offerings works.
Maybe the problem with Sandler's movies is that he doesn't have the right leading ladies. We all know that Drew Barrymore was the key to universality in "The Wedding Singer," but Sandler was also at his charming best without making dumb facial features and annoying voices. Even though he reverts to them here, the voice and twisted physiognomy wears thin on nerves, but with the presence of Arquette, itís a lot more appealing. The sad thing is, as word of mouth has it (that is, from acquaintances' mouths to my ears) this looks stupid --all that assessed just from the TV preview. Where were they for the preview (or moreover, the movie) of "Big Daddy" or "The Waterboy?" The ever-persistent Sandler lassoes enough talent to make this work! (Cameos and bit parts include: Peter Dante, Reese Witherspoon, The Harlem Globetrotters, Clint Howard, Dana Carvey, Jon Lovitz, Kevin Nealon, Michael McKean, Quentin Tarantino, Carl Weathers, Rob Schneider, John Witherspoon, Lewis Arquette, Henry Winkler, Ozzy Osbourne, Regis Philbin, Sylvia Lopez, etc.)
Witherspoon, as a boppy angel ("God's so smart! Like, 'Jeopardy' smart!"), is probably the best surprise, but Tarantino, and plenty others, along with the silly gags and situations, is enough to garner some juvenile entertainment and amicability.
Arquette was definitely underused, and that was disappointing! After seeing her in so many chameleon-like roles, this was a stretch enough for her. The role was too underdeveloped and superficial, but when the script gave her the opportunity, she was quite funny. However, Arquette's presence was enough to sustain my satisfaction, no matter how temporarily.
One other mentionable benefit was Theo Van de Sande's cinematography. The colors he chose to shot this in, particularly the clear pastels, looked great, and the visual effects and production design were also fun.Final Verdict: B-.
link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=1792&reviewer=172
originally posted: 11/14/00 09:13:53