Eight Crazy Nights is the animated Chanukah musical film you didn’t know you needed, and it comes mightily close to pulling it off. A familiar tale about a lost kid who never shakes off a childhood tragedy, he grows up to become the town drunk before finally seeing The Light amidst all the other Christmas and Chanukah lights. It has a perennial message of redemption and second, and third and fourth, chances that never gets old and that has fueled many a holiday film. A shame then that is ruined by Adam Sandler’s grating voice acting.
Though his brainchild – Sandler co-produces and co-writes and stars, his presence as not just one but four different characters means there’s never a moment of respite. Actually, he is bearable as Davey, the 33 year old troublemaker who delights in making life for Dukesberry residents miserable, if only because Sandler speaks in a normal voice. Davey’s had it rough; orphaned as a young teen, he abandoned a promising basketball career and turned delinquent. Nowadays, he lounges around the mall and Chinese restaurants, committing an assortment of crimes on impulse or, when he’s in a better state of mind, insulting people about their insecurities.
The self-hate is strong with this one, but the fact that he is so loathsome, not only to others but to himself, makes you wish for his conversion that much more. He helps his case by showing a flicker of fondness towards his childhood friend Jennifer (Jackie Titone), a single mother with a young son, and by hanging on to his parents’ unopened Chanukah card. Davey’s callousness and outright cruelty may not be very understandable or forgivable but his compounding shame and regret is relatable.
The trouble begins after his latest infraction when he is sentenced to community service with a basketball referee in the youth leagues. You’re ability to tolerate Whitey Duvall, rather Sandler’s interpretation of him, may determine how charitable you feel towards this movie. Voiced by any other older actor, he’d be a charming hobbit of a man, someone who goes out of his way to show kindness to everyone and who believes in Dukesberry’s youth regardless of talent. He earns more sympathy as a pensioner forced to scrounge around for odd jobs and as a yearly contender, though never winner, for the town’s service award. That he still sees something in Davey even when everyone else has given up says something about pure charity.
But all of this is cancelled out by Sandler’s pinched and grating whine, that pouty, interminable screech he adopts when he wants the world to know that he can do funny voices. I can excuse his adolescent fixation on body parts and bodily functions, I can excuse his voicing of Whitey’s anxious twin sister (he plays her about an octave lower), I can even excuse the racist Chinese restaurant owner played by Rob Schneider (okay, no I can’t). But I can’t bring myself to reconcile the indefatigable Whitey with Sandler’s vision of him. The film may be vibrantly animated and livened by punchy if not exactly outstanding songs, but it has a hard time overcoming its own creator.
“Long Ago” by Adam Sandler and Alison Krauss:
“Technical Foul” by Adam Sandler, Adam Sandler, and Adam Sandler:
“The Chanukah Song, Part 3” by Adam Sandler:
Prod: Adam Sandler, Allen Covert, Jack Giarraputo, Brooks Arthur
Dir: Seth Kearsley
Writer: Adam Sandler, Allen Covert, Brooks Arthur, Brad Isaacs
Cast: Adam Sandler, Jackie Titone, Austin Stout, Rob Schneider, Kevin Nealon, Norm Crosby, Jon Lovitz
Time: 76 min
Country: United States