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Not-so-divine comedy

Review: 'Little Nicky' another hellish offering from Adam Sandler

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In this story:

This is funny?

Har ... har ... har...


RELATED STORIES, SITES Downward pointing arrow


(CNN) -- The new Adam Sandler movie, "Little Nicky," is comparable to a political candidate who "wins" a debate by appearing to be less idiotic than everybody assumes is.

As much as anyone in our popular culture, Sandler has profited from a worldwide movement toward lowered expectations.

"Little Nicky," in which he plays the brain-damaged son of the devil, is bad. It does, however, contain a couple of amusing cameos and maybe four legitimately funny jokes. In the eyes of Sandler's core audience, that makes it the next best thing to James Thurber.

Sandler is Little Nicky, the third, and least evil, of Satan's three sons. When Nicky's older brothers (Rhys Ifans and Tiny Lister) get angry at their dad and bolt the depths of hell, timid Nicky is forced to journey to New York City to retrieve them. There, he's able to participate in all kinds of fish-out-of-water activities, very few of which have anything to do with the middling plot. When a movie that starts off as a satire on hell eventually includes a basketball game featuring the Harlem Globetrotters, somebody's free-associating.

This is funny?

Dad (Harvey Keitel) is literally falling to pieces because his errant sons have toyed with the natural order. His fingers and ears are dropping off, and everything else is hanging on by a thread. This biological breakdown can only be reversed by the boys returning to hell.

Never mind that, though. What in the world is Keitel doing in this movie? Now that he's lowered himself to play this role, and Robert DeNiro has played Fearless Leader in "The Adventures of Rocky & Bullwinkle," the doors are wide open for Martin Scorsese to direct "Scooby Doo."

Sandler and co-screenwriters Tim Herlihy and Steven Brill (who also directed) are lucky that Sandler's cult will accept virtually anything as a joke, so long as it seems dirty. Keitel, for instance, punishes an ineffective gatekeeper (Kevin Nealon) by making huge breasts grow on his head ... because breasts are, you know, lady parts. So that's funny. You also get see Hitler receiving punishment for his crimes against humanity via a rudely inserted pineapple.

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It bears restating that Sandler receives in the neighborhood of $20 million to star in a movie; no word on how much of that he gives back if they let him work on the script.

Har ... har ... har...

The nonexistent laughs just keep on coming. When Nicky sees his sidekick, a talking dog, relieving himself on a city sidewalk, he crouches down and tries to do it himself ... Quentin Tarantino, whose name has been linked, rightly or wrongly, with a genius-level IQ, plays a blind street preacher who runs into lamp posts and falls down the steps of a subway entrance ... Nicky gets run over by a subway train ... Nicky gets run over by a bus ... Nicky gets run over by another subway train. One of the film's better moments occurs when Ifans sticks his entire fist into his right nostril; if that doesn't tell you something, read no more. Just go see the movie.

Sorry about all the ellipses, by the way. But that's exactly how the movie feels. Stick it all together, throw in some special effects and the semblance of a romance (courtesy of Patricia Arquette), and presto -- you've got a $30 million opening weekend. You don't have any self-respect, mind you, but you've got 30 million reasons to say "so what?"

In fairness, it should be stated that there's a sweet, amusing sequence set in heaven, in which Reese Witherspoon plays the leader of a bunch of Valley Girl angels. Rodney Dangerfield also gets off a couple of good lines as Nicky's grandfather, and Henry Winkler generates a quick laugh.

Otherwise, you're pretty much stuck in hell.

There are all kinds of rude set pieces in "Little Nicky," and some bad language. It's all very cartoonish. If you're pretentious enough to have moved beyond laughing at booger-picking, you should probably stay at home. Rated R. 95 minutes.



RELATED STORIES:
Adam Sandler leaps from cinema to cyberspace
July 31, 2000
Review: 'Big Daddy' -- bringing up Sandler
June 25, 1999
Review: Sandler should've punted 'Waterboy'
November 13, 1998
Review: Take your valentine to a 'wedding'
February 13, 1998

RELATED SITES:
Little Nicky
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