After two of the devil's three sons escape Hell to wreak havoc on Earth, the devil must send his third son, the mild-mannered Nicky, to bring them back before it's too late.After two of the devil's three sons escape Hell to wreak havoc on Earth, the devil must send his third son, the mild-mannered Nicky, to bring them back before it's too late.After two of the devil's three sons escape Hell to wreak havoc on Earth, the devil must send his third son, the mild-mannered Nicky, to bring them back before it's too late.
This is rubbish. Thoughtless, childish pap that adds considerable credence to the notion that Adam Sandler is as overrated as he is irritating. It is a sad state of affairs when filmmakers believe they can simply unleash this goofy, rubber-faced moron on a trusting and frankly deluded public and gleefully scoop up gazillions of dollars in takings. But why wouldn't they think that? Sandler is a veritable Box Office cash cow.
This has been a mystery to me for years. Sandler is a comedian who (in his films at least) HAS NO GAGS! Not only does he not do jokes, but his physical comedy is pretty ordinary too. His success is based purely on the pathos generated by the losers he plays. The man is obviously no mug. He has worked out that producers are falling over themselves to offer him twenty million bucks a throw to fall over a couple of times and wear bad 1980s clothing. Nice work if you can get it.
I will grudgingly give him The Wedding Singer where he fortuitously stumbled on some decent chemistry with Drew Barrymore, but aside from that his movies are generally overly sentimental and woefully short on substance.
Little Nicky is another opportunity to build a weak, convoluted story around one of Sandler's lovable schmucks. Well they got it half right. His eponymous 'hero' (and I use the term in its loosest possible sense) is certainly a schmuck, but he is about as lovable as herpes.
Nicky is the youngest son of the Devil (Harvey Keitel. Really.). When Dad reaches pensionable age (10,000 years in this case), he is supposed to retire and hand over the reins to an heir. Not believing any of his diabolical offspring suitable for the job, he decides to stay in charge himself. This incenses his other two sons (Rhys Ifans and Tom Lister Jr) and they decide to snub life in Hades in favour of running riot up on Earth. Their departure freezes over the gates of Hell and begins to physically debilitate old Satan. If parity cannot be restored and the naughty boys returned down below, Harvey is in serious danger of disappearing into thin air (which, it strikes me, would actually be a blessing).
Anyway, sweet-natured, not-evil-enough-to-rule, Earth-virgin Nicky is dispatched up to retrieve his errant brothers. With hilarious consequences, obviously. Well, I guess that's the theory.
But the expected barrage of fish-out-of-water stereotypes never materialises. Instead, there are a series of bizarre, contrived scenes many of which centre around the toilet habits of an annoying talking dog.
The biggest problem (and there are many) is Sandler. His previous characters may have been absurdly insipid and one-dimensional, but at least he injected them with a modicum of warmth. A thirty-four year old man shuffling about in a duffel coat and trying to portray a blushing adolescent is more frightening than cute. He is severely hindered by an appalling nasal whine that may have sounded amusing on a thirty second Saturday Night Live skit, but begins to grate when affected for the entire duration of a ninety-minute feature. He sounds like a cross between a hood on the Sopranos and Muttley out of the Wacky Races. In short, the character is decidedly unlovely, borderline creepy and, most importantly, relentlessly unfunny.
No supporting cast can sustain a lead like that. Keitel, Rodney Dangerfield, Quentin Tarantino, Patricia Arquette and Reese Witherspoon (as a Clueless-cliché angel) do not disgrace themselves but won't see this as their finest hour. Ifans at least looks like he's approached the project with his tongue firmly in his cheek. His perpetual look of amused bewilderment almost made me smile. Almost.
- Oct 14, 2004