Logan’s Moving Pictures is back to talk about a specific obsession of Ryan’s that he did not share, Adam Sandler. Specifically, the Sandler Epic Little Nicky!!!
I don’t understand Adam Sandler.
More specifically, I don’t understand why so many people find him funny.
Well, I guess that isn’t true. I enjoy several of his comedic efforts. Happy Gilmore, Big Daddy, The Wedding Singer, and 50 First Dates all have their moments. I think the fact that they’re also some of his biggest hits speaks to how they aren’t so steeped in Sandler-ness. They’re more massively appealing, and while they have bits of his…let’s call them weird sensibilities, it’s thankfully reigned in as much as possible.
His dramatic efforts? Those I’m in for.
Punch Drunk Love, Uncut Gems, Reign Over Me, Funny People, Spanglish…not all perfect movies, but I think Sandler is at the very least not acting like Adam Sandler in them and attempting to deliver something next level. But when he’s mostly left to his own devices, allowed to engage in complete and utter insanity…I don’t get him.
My brother did though.
From his SNL days to his comedy records to his acting, my brother was one of those early Sandler fans. He had the albums and would sit around in his room with his friends and listen to them non-stop. He would rent every movie Sand-man made any kind of appearance in and watch them on repeat. It’s how I discovered the little-watched gem of a film Mixed Nuts with Steve Martin. He had that ridiculous Steve Polychronopolous video recorded off MTV and I swear if I never hear that song again it’ll be too soon. I was in for some of it, as I said, but I preferred him in small doses, like in Airheads. Ryan though, he was always down for the totally goofy, crass Sandler stuff.
He used to tell this story of he and a friend of his, Carrie, deciding to go see the latest Adam Sandler movie on their day off from work. It happened to be Punch Drunk Love. I may be wrong, but I believe the story went that they both got incredibly stoned and walked into what they thought was going to be a totally goofy, zany good time, and instead they got a Paul Thomas Anderson flick. Which, according to my brother, is not fun when you’re stoned.
Still, even if you told me we were going to see an Adam Sandler movie, but the rest of the cast filled out like this: Harvey Keitel, Patricia Arquette, Rhys Ifans, Reese Witherspoon, and Quentin Tarantino…I don’t think I could have predicted the outcome would be what was put to film in Little Nicky.
I’d say it’s Sandler at the height of his ability to get even the schlockiest of idiotic stories made, but really his powers have only grown. These days he just uses his budgets to take his family and friends on vacation and disguise it as making movies, so I will give Little Nicky credit for at least being an attempt at a film. But, as attempts go it is just one giant whiff.
I happened upon it in Ryan’s collection of VHS tapes, along with several other (better) Sandler films, and I initially decided to see if any of those were available for streaming. I’d seen Little Nicky once before and recalled being pretty miserable throughout, so why subject myself to it again?
Except the movie wouldn’t let me go. This nagging thought in the back of my mind just kept saying “It’s not as bad as you remember, I bet,” and after a day or so of deliberation, I looked it up and found it was streaming on HBO Max. So, why the hell not?
My first thought after finishing it was that somehow Ryan had known that someone would go through his movies when he was gone and decide to watch them and that this was effectively the last joke he’d ever get to play. My second thought was “crap, I totally left it rolling for thirty minutes while I made a sandwich and missed a big chunk of the end.” So, I had to watch the last half of the movie for a second time. Which makes my first thought even funnier.
This movie is bad. Like, no redeeming qualities at all kind of bad. I’d say that the only thing I truly enjoyed in the entire run time was Rodney Dangerfield, but I feel like saying I respected his performance here would go against what he was all about. I don’t understand how they convinced anyone besides Sandler’s usual gang to sign on, but clearly it was without showing them a script. It’s kind of insane how many people beyond those I’ve already listed showed up to play. If you want to get absolutely blitzed, turn it into a drinking game; every time someone you recognize who isn’t Adam Sandler shows up, take a drink. By the end, you’ll be a full-fledged alcoholic. Or possibly deceased.
I’d say that’s a joke in poor taste, but when you’re talking about Little Nicky, you can’t really get low enough into the realm of poor taste.
So, what’s the takeaway? Was there anything at all to be gained by watching this?
Well, with a ridiculous budget of $85 million and a worldwide gross of only about $50 million, the movie was assuredly a failure in every possible way. On top of that, this was pretty early in Adam Sandler’s film career. It’s the kind of thing that could really sink you. Except it didn’t. Certainly, they didn’t set out to make a bad movie, if anything it seems like Sandler is always just trying to have a good time and get stupid with his friends and anyone else who wants to come along. But it takes just one bad, over-priced production to sink you, at least for a decade or so, and that didn’t happen.
Two years after Nicky, Sandler showed up in the previously mentioned Punch-Drunk Love, a movie that forced people to look at him in a different light and gave him some acting cred that was sorely needed and well deserved. From there it was 18 years of at least one film a year, along with producing a ton of others. There are some hits, some misses (depending on who you ask), and a lot of just middling flicks where he’s doing what he does.
Little Nicky is something that probably should have wrecked his career, but it didn’t. If anything it maybe forced him to play it a little safer, choosing roles that either critics or audiences could at least connect with. He didn’t get to go full-blown silly again until 2008’s Don’t Mess With The Zohan. Still, he didn’t give up. He really didn’t even let it slow him down.
I know I’m not alone in the fact that the smallest hiccup in my day can waylay the entire thing. One hitch in a plan and I’m ready to toss it all out, grab a bag of corn chips and a pint of ice cream, go back to bed and binge-watch The Office for two days. Or, even worse, when everything does come together and then no one really appreciates it or finds any kind of enjoyment in it at all…those are the days that I want to just walk away from everything, drive to the middle of nowhere and start over.
It’s also possible I’m a little dramatic. Still, it was weird to walk away from something I would describe as cinematic torture and find myself reevaluating how I approach my own failures and missteps, but here we are.