Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Penny Thoughts ‘12—Eight Crazy Nights (2002) zero stars

PG-13, 76 min.
Director: Seth Kearsley
Writers: Brooks Arthur, Allen Covert, Brad Isaacs, Adam Sandler
Voices: Adam Sandler, Jackie Titone, Austin Stout, Kevin Nealon, Rob Schneider, Norm Crosby, Jon Lovitz

Here we are in the middle of the annual Chanukah celebration of the Jewish faith and after seeing Adam Sandler’s “Eight Crazy Nights”, I can see why some Jewish people might feel unfairly represented during the holiday season. Not only is their belief system even older than the Christians and yet they still play second fiddle to Christmas during the winter solstice, but they also have this atrocity to bear. Sandler felt it necessary to soil the Chanukah celebration with some of the most inappropriate humor of his film career, and that’s a bar he set pretty high for himself.

The plot of the film really has very little to do with Chanukah other than the fact that it takes place during the Festival of Lights and the main characters are Jewish. There is no mention of the rituals or the meaning behind the holiday. The characters seem to be Jewish in name alone, not in practice. If you judged Chanukah by this film, you’d only know that it takes place at the same time as Christmas, it lasts for eight days, and kids get a present each night. Frankly, this is not an enlightening film on any Jewish traditions.

That’s because it isn’t about being Jewish. It seems to be about being an asshole. I suppose that’s what every Sandler movie is about. This one really takes the cake, though. His character here, essentially an animated version of himself, goes beyond jerkdom and is a outright criminal. This criminal is supposed to be the hero of the story, but plays his cards far beyond the redemption point before the entire supporting cast is even introduced.

The biggest problem I have with the movie, however, is its treatment of the character named Whitey. The name alone is suspect. Whitey is just not a good name for any character, ever. Whitey is supposed to be an old man who for unexplained reasons has one foot that’s bigger than the other, is covered in white fur over most of his body, and has seizures whenever he becomes stressed out. The other characters, even the non-criminals, think nothing of startling Whitey to induce a seizure as a practical joke. This happens several times throughout the film.

Perhaps I’ve become overly sensitive to the phenomenon of seizures because my own daughter suffers from them occasionally, but this notion of treating a serious medical condition as a joke seems particularly insensitive and potentially dangerous. I’m sure anyone who has ever had to deal with seizures, as a victim of them or just a witness, does not find them remotely funny. Here they are just fodder for writers who seem to see comedy as a platform for a unique style of bullying that is neither funny nor entertaining in any way but to the perpetrator of such behavior. It borders on the psychotic.

There are many other irredeemable qualities to this animated film, which mercifully is rated PG-13. Sandler said at the time that he made the film because there were plenty of fun holiday movies out there based around typical Christmas traditions, but none centered on Jewish characters. As someone who is not Jewish, I still think I speak for all Jewish people when I say that Sandler should leave the Jewish people alone. They’ve been through enough.

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