Christmas Movies. There are hundreds of them. Hanukkah movies? I’d say less than 10, and most of them are more like TV episodes than full blown movies. However, there are 2 movies that are definitely for the season; An American Tail…and this.
Set in the modern day (2002) our animated feature stars Adam Sandler in 1 of 5 movies he was involved in that year, including the rare drama where he showed off his acting skills called Punch Drunk Love. In this film, he plays Davey Stone, a 33 year old angry and depressed alcoholic and former basketball prodigy who hates the holiday season and has a habit of ruining it for everyone else. On the first night of Hanukkah, Davey drank 5 Scorpion Bowls in 5 minutes, carried out a Dine and Dash, ended up on the run from the police, engaged in the ruining of walks and activities for civilians as he passed through, and destroyed both the Christmas Ice Sculpture and the Hanukkah Ice Sculpture…both at the same time. All while singing a song about how much he hates the holidays. While in court, the Judge then gives us part of Davey’s backstory about how he was an awesome 13 year old, before coming close to giving Davey a sentence. From the spectators in the court emerged Whitey, a tiny 70 year old man who looks 111 and goes way back with Davey. The judge agrees to let Whitey train Davey to be a referee for the youth basketball league, and if Davey misbehaved, he’ll go to jail for 10 years. Obviously some shenanigans ensue.
Now to go into details
The Animation in this film is really good, and I mean really, really good. It flows really well, it accents, and while it presents itself as closer to reality, it takes a great number of good quality liberties that Davey (and Whitey) would not have been able to accomplish in real life…let alone find somebody like Whitey and his sister in real life who could act. It’s so good in fact, that much like the 2016 movie Sausage Party, it looks the part of a Disney animated feature before letting us know that this isn’t for kids at all.
The Art Style’s very good too, very colourful and reminding me of animated cartoons that looked like they were made by Disney, but weren’t (Don Bluth comes to mind). It’s visually pleasing, even in its weirdly ugly moments.
The Music is mostly that of an unorthodox musical, which includes Adam Sandler’s “Hanukkah Song” (3rd edition) in the credits and a lot of exposition songs that are worthy of being sung again, believe it or not. I’m not into musicals outside of some Disney movies and the Blues Brothers, but to a degree, I did enjoy the songs here.
The Characters are good, not too well developed, but also enough to not call it “plot over character”. Adam Sandler’s Davey Stone character is basically the equivalent of Scrooge, if Scrooge was young, broke, alcoholic and Jewish (depending on your interpretation of the Christmas Carol or Charles Dickens’ personal character). The most striking dynamic is both the relationship and contrast between Davey and Whitey. Davey had everything going for him, until ” the incident” that changed his life. His ideal existence and path went down the toilet, leaving him bitter, angry and depressed about what could have been. Meanwhile, Whitey is cut from a different cloth altogether. From the start, Whitey was disadvantaged due to his foot condition, his height, his unusual hairiness, his susceptibility to fits when confronted with too many disagreements, his lack of education and opportunities, and being rejected by every woman he tried to have a relationship with. Despite this, he’s a competent basketball referee, an excellent ice skater and is well liked by those who actually know him, including the deer in the woods. In his hardships, Whitey learned how to be focused, happy and grateful for the simple things, while having a goal in mind – something that Davey, who is still very young by comparison, still hasn’t figured out or embraced. Within this context, the movie is capable of taking on a new layer of expression that goes beyond the toilet humour that sticks in the minds of those who watched this for the first time.
The Voice Acting consists mostly of Adam Sandler playing both Davey and Whitey (for better or worse). We’re also given the Adam Sandler movie staple of Rob Schneider getting work. Here Schneider voices 2 roles; the narrator (which is pretty decent) and Mr Chang, the waiter of the Chinese Restaurant who is as stereotypical as it gets. Jon Lovitz also appears, and ends up telling the 2 best jokes in the movie. In general, it’s all well done, and even the singing parts are well done.
The Story and Themes of the film are a mixed bag, as in the common emphasis is crap, but the deeper aspects are…actually not too bad. On 1 side, you have a big pile of gross out humour, a rude and bitter main character, and an annoying support character. The amount of product placement in this film is the equivalent of the creators walking into every shop in a mall and asking them for sponsorship (and since it’s Adam Sandler in 2002, they probably thought “Hey it’s Adam Sandler! Kids like him, so they might come to us if we appear in his flick). Was the film actually funny? It depends on the person. Around the time this film came out, not only was Adam Sandler quite popular, but so was MTV’s Jackass, and this film has a lot of Jackass style humour. However, this doesn’t mean the film’s all about that. In terms of its presentation of bereavement, depression, alcoholism and nostalgia; it’s pretty watchable if you’re not looking for a laugh. Not too watchable though – the toilet humour and sex jokes will place themselves front and centre with this film almost every time.
Would I recommend 8 Crazy Nights? It depends. It’s only 76 minutes long (same length as The Nightmare Before Christmas), which is a plus if you hate the humour that’s littered throughout. But in its own, weird way – there’s a timelessness to it. All of the film’s product placement was done in a very tongue and cheek manner to get it out of the way, and when you look past the gross-out humour, you’ll actually find quite an old-school looking fable. Davey Stone is about as developed as Scrooge, and the depression and bitterness he presents on screen is actually pretty accurate of someone who experiences the same symptoms in real life. It’s a horrifying, saddening presentation that’s all too true for some people around the holiday season. If anything, the film says “If you meet a Davey during the holiday season, be a Whitey”…How you choose to interpret the word Whitey is up to you.
Art Style: ****1/2
Voice Acting: ****