|Davey Stone gets stuck with the bill at a Chinese restaurant in Adam Sandler's 8 Crazy Nights.|
Movies about Christmas are as plentiful this season as Minnesota snowflakes, except that no two seem quite different. Yet no American before Adam Sandler ever made a feature film about Chanukah. Nor has Sandler, although he calls his latest cinematic eructation 8 Crazy Nights. The animated feature is set throughout the Feast of Lights, but, except for a menorah, it might as well be about Purim.
Lenny Bruce, a master of obnoxiousness and - unlike Sandler - wit, noted that the two quintessentially Gentile things are lime Jell-O and trailers. Davey Stone, a nasty Jewish boy of 33, inhabits a trailer. His parents' deaths when he was 12 transformed him into a vicious, bibulous misanthrope whose idea of fun is to ensure unhappy holidays for the Christians and Jews of snowy Dukesberry. Davey is a young, athletic Scrooge who, prodded by a sweet old man named Whitey (Sandler is the voice for Davey, Whitey, Whitey's sister Eleanore, and a deer), becomes a mensch by the final frames.
But saccharine sentiments in the last two minutes do not redeem the previous 74. 8 Crazy Nights abounds with mean-spirited gags about dwarves, Chinese, and diabetics. It assumes inherent hilarity in barfing, farting, belching, and excreting. The film is supposed to be a musical comedy, but the music is dreadful (Davey croons: "I was such a shithead" to a forgettable tune) and the comedy moronic. It respects nothing but money, probably paid by a dozen franchises, including Dunkin' Donuts, Foot Locker, and Radio Shack, portrayed within the story. Because 8 Crazy Nights conveys contempt for everything else, when a character, entering a shopping mall, proclaims: "This is the most beautiful place I've ever seen," you know you are watching a movie without one iota of irony. SGK
WES CRAVEN PRESENTS: THEY "You won't be afraid of the dark" Dir. Robert Harmon; writ. Brendan Hood; feat. Laura Regan, Marc Blucas, Ethan Embry, Dagmara Dominczyk, Jonathan Cherry (PG-13)
First off, Wes Craven Presents: They is a misnomer. The horror maestro didn't write, direct, produce, or act in this film. He wasn't even a gaffer - he just let the filmmakers slap his name on it. Second, and more unfortunate, They is a boring pseudo-psychological horror film that turns fear of the dark into a one-dimensional plot device.
Under the plodding direction of Robert Harmon, who created intense and memorable thrills with 1986's The Hitcher, They features a few orchestrally augmented jolts accompanied by a series of snail-paced exposition scenes that neither snare you into the story nor keep you on your toes.
Screenwriter Brandon Hood attempts to add some irony and depth to the film by having the heroine Julia Land (Regan) be a psychology major who suffered "night terrors" as a child. The story unfolds once Julia relapses into her night terrors and begins to psychoanalyze her fear of the dark, all while a city-wide power outage conveniently pits They's terrorized victims against their childhood demons.
But it's hard for audience members to root for characters who aren't trying to help themselves. These folks appear to be seeking out trouble - and contrived trouble, at that. For instance, characters seem to follow darkness rather than avoid it, as any level-headed person wanting to survive would. Unfortunately, there isn't much light (man-made or electric) to seek out; Harmon's shots are studiously dark, which might be creepy if you weren't so busy thinking the characters were idiots. AL
Films reviewed by:
SGK: Steven G. Kellman
AL: Albert Lopez