Film Reviews

Brat Outta Hell

Little Nicky will redefine the phrase "worst movie ever," because it might actually be the worst movie ever. Never again will one be able to so casually sling around that phrase about, say, anything produced by Jerry Bruckheimer or anything starring Richard Grieco or Robert Davi or Rodney Dangerfield (who, incidentally, happens to co-star here as Lucifer, with whom Dangerfield made a deal way back in 1923).

Little Nicky might well become the yardstick by which subsequent awfulness is measured; it all but shatters the bell curve. Sit through it (and I so dare you), and nothing else will ever seem quite so bad -- not surgery without anesthesia, not removing layers of flesh with a carrot peeler, not sitting through back-to-back episodes of The Geena Davis Show. My God, Little Nicky makes one long for the good old days of this past summer; Road Trip and Loser and Coyote Ugly suddenly look like the work of auteurs, films made by Godard and Truffaut and Ozu, respectively. If you've missed the point, let me put it to you like this: After the screening of Little Nicky, I went home and turned on MTV's Jackass, on which two men -- one full-size, another a midget called Weeman -- wrestled in a pit of horse manure, and it was, by far, a more edifying and thought-provoking viewing experience.

Adam Sandler plays the son of the devil, which leads one to believe that Little Nicky is, in fact, a documentary; how else to explain the career of the unfunniest funny man since Idi Amin? One longs for the glory days of Happy Gilmore or Big Daddy or The Wedding Singer, movies that are, by comparison, works of utter genius and genuine charm. Sandler used to work hard to make audiences like him, but he's through suckering the suckers; he now makes movies to spite the very audience that once adored him. Where once he was the barely likable dumbass -- Bill Murray, circa Stripes and Caddyshack, without all that comedy-genius baggage getting in the way -- he's now the annoying guest who has long overstayed his visit and worn out his welcome. He speaks out of the side of his mouth (again) and talks out of his ass, and whatever goodwill he engendered early in his film career has long since dissolved into a puddle of vomit and urine on a downtown sidewalk. (Little Nicky doesn't skimp on bodily fluids.) Not since David Spade has one man made so much money with so little talent. Either that, or Sandler has suffered a stroke and kept it a secret; there's no way someone with a working brain reads, much less co-writes, this screenplay and finds a single line amusing. (There is one good joke, which I feel perfectly fine spoiling, if only to allow you to save your money and your will to live: Dan Marino sits in front of the devil (Harvey Keitel) and offers his soul for a single Super Bowl win. Satan refuses, prompting Marino to sniff, "But you did it for Joe Namath.")

As Nicky, a demon perfectly content to bang his head to Judas Priest and Metallica in his bedroom, Sandler must ascend from Hell to rescue New York City from his two older brothers, Adrian (Notting Hill's Rhys Ifans) and Cassius (Tiny Lister), whose departure from Hades has left their old man (Keitel) literally falling to pieces. (By film's end, Keitel is reduced to nothing but a pair of lips; apparently, the word "dignity" is something with which he's unfamiliar.) Adrian and Cassius want to turn New York into "New Hell," and they find the citizens of Manhattan quite willing to succumb to sin; soon enough, a possessed mayor (George Wallace) is lowering the drinking age to 10 and changing the town's long-famous motto to "I Love Hookers," and no one seems to mind or even notice.

But Nicky's too much the good boy to take on his brothers, so it's up to a talking dog (voiced by Triumph the Insult Comic Dog's master, Robert Smigel) to teach him how to "release the evil within." (Little Nicky is, at the very least, the world's most obvious Star Wars parody.) But the film's not content to peddle its trash-can King Lear-isms; Sandler throws in a love interest, played by a very embarrassed-looking Patricia Arquette, who actually allows Sandler to refer to her as "Snaggletooth." The whole sordid affair makes you want to look away; if these people feel no shame, the least we can do is pretend not to notice.

The most shocking thing about Little Nicky is how casually it massacres the careers of actors who should have known better; it's the biggest blood bath in Hollywood since Charlie Manson went all helter-skelter. One can only assume Keitel, Arquette, Reese Witherspoon (as a Val Gal angel . . . and Nicky's mom), Clint Howard (a wig-wearing, nipple-rubbing, wax-dripping trannie), Henry Winkler (who shows up only to be stung by bees, twice), Carl Weathers (reprising his role from Happy Gilmore), Dana Carvey (hiding behind makeup, hoping no one will notice who he is), Michael McKean, basketball great Bill Walton, Quentin Tarantino (as a blind, crazy man, which would explain Jackie Brown), Jon Lovitz (who's repeatedly raped by a giant crow) and Kevin Nealon (forced to sport two enormous breasts atop his bald head) lost bets or were victims of blackmail. This is a movie in which Keitel literally shoves an enormous pineapple up the ass of Adolf Hitler, who's forced to spend eternal damnation in a French maid's outfit. Something tells me that being forced to sit through Little Nicky is a far more terrifying punishment.

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Robert Wilonsky
Contact: Robert Wilonsky