Adam Sandler, Patricia Arquette, Allen Covert, Harvey Keitel, Tiny Lister, Rhys Ifans
Adam Sandler, Tim Herlihy
Even Adam Sandler's diehard fans seem to loathe "Little Nicky." The film was nominated for five Razzie Awards in 2001, including Worst Picture, Worst Director (Steven Brill), Worst Actor (Sandler), Worst Supporting Actress (Patricia Arquette) and Worst Screenplay (Sandler, Tim Herlihy and Brill).
The screenplay is generally regarded as weak, at best. The scenes are regarded as disconnected and the characters as more caricatures. Then, of course, there's Nicky's voice. Was Sandler high when he dreamed up the voice for Little Nicky? Even stoners could be seen in the theatres covering their ears when Nicky first starts speaking...it's one of the oddest vocal choices ever heard in a film.
Now then, let me say that I agree with much of what I've already written. The voice of Little Nicky is irritating at best, and I can't fathom a reason for choosing it. It is a clear distraction from the character and more of a spectacle than anything. These scenes are disconnected, the plot is loose and undeveloped at best and I'd even agree that this is one of Sandler's least appealing performances. It's sort of like an SNL script that keeps stuttering along.
But, now the confession. The simple fact is I enjoy this film each and every time I watch it. Is it Oscar winning material? nope. Is it captivating cinema? nope. Yet, in a sea of formulaic, boring and unimaginative and undaring films "Little Nicky" manages to be so bizarre in some of its filmmaking choices and so downright silly that I find it completely endearing.
First, there's the relationship of Sandler and Patricia Arquette. I fell in love with Arquette in this role...she gives her character a sweetness...a vulnerability...a presence so unlike anything she's ever done that I just fell in love with her. Furthermore, irritating voice aside, Sandler's chemistry with Arquette was fun to watch and generally believable.
Sandler regular Allen Covert is another reason for my love of this film...regardless of the size of his role, Covert seems to make the most of it. He takes a caricature as written and develops it into a likeable character.
This film is clearly a tongue-in-cheek film that requires tremendous suspension of expectation. It also is another film that turns Sandler away from his mischievous boy roles towards his loving doofus type of role. There were so many times during this film that I found myself going "AWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW." For example, Reese Witherspoon watching her "son." Yes, it was stupid but it was sweet. I also enjoyed the work of Tiny Lister, Rhys Ifans, Rodney Dangerfield and Quentin Tarantino. For those who say this is an odd career choice and step backward for Harvey Keitel we have to remember he's made lots of odd career choices his entire career. This showed me a side of Keitel I hadn't seen...and, yes, I may not need to see it again BUT it was fun this once.
Steven Brill, who also directed "Mr. Deeds" and this year's ugly "Without a Paddle," really seems to have no clue what he's doing here and doesn't do a good job of reining in Sandler or the rest of the cast. I believe in artistic freedom, but a disciplined director could have turned this into a much more entertaining film.
This film is a guilty pleasure for me...I'm acutely aware it is not a great film...I'm fully aware that the script leaves a lot to be desired, Sandler's character is often irritating and this film is generally disconnected...BUT, there's an underlying sweetness to it, a genuine chemistry between Sandler and Arquette, a nice performance by Allen Covert, a killer soundtrack and a tongue-in-cheek, goofy and irreverent quality to the film that I continue to enjoy time and time again. © Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic