Poopsicles, drunken losers and Sandler’s inner child

What the world needs now is a sincerely funny holiday movie that emphasizes some of the positive aspects of the season and educates Christian masses about other religions’ customs. Encouraging tolerance of difference never hurt a society in a cultural crisis either. Add a couple laughs and songs to help the medicine go down and you have a tolerable animated holiday movie.

Despite what it may try to be, Adam Sandler’s animated film isn’t that movie. It’s got a couple laughs, many of them inappropriate for kids (it’s rated PG-13) and too no-brow for most adults. Bodily functions, fluids and parts can only go so far. Jokes at the expense of obese kids with breasts, women with three breasts, the disabled, the elderly and minorities will take you a step further – in the wrong direction.

No-brow “South Park” gets away with some of those gags. With their style of animation, they can be crass and witty, delivering themes subtly. It’s impossible to take them seriously, and it was never meant to be. Sandler’s film wants you to laugh at the potty jokes, cry and feel good. It doesn’t work.

The film “8 Crazy Nights” makes an honest attempt to be for families. It attempts to portray the transformation of a sociopathic 33-year-old Jewish scrooge into a nice holiday-loving guy. All he needs to do is get in touch with his inner child and emotions. What a concept.

Sandler’s singing sociopath is named Davey Stone. He’s sentenced to be a volunteer on a kid’s basketball team after wreaking havoc on the town’s Christmas cheer and destroying two ice sculptures – a giant Santa Claus and a set of Hanukkah candles, one of the film’s few attempts to be a Hanukkah film as advertised. The sequence is accompanied by the film’s first cheesy song, in which Stone sings “I hate love, I hate you, I hate me.” Ahhh, self-hatred, one of the best reasons to hate the holidays, drink in excess and torment people. We come to learn that he hates himself because his parents died over 20 years ago, a better reason for bad behavior.

There are a few funny songs and many more whose sappiness makes you cringe. One minute there’s a cheery holiday or love song, the next there’s one about Stone’s morning erection.

The story is set up when the idyllic little suburban town judge wants the throw the book at Stone for his repeat offenses and general tendency to be a big, dumb asshole. Stone’s old basketball coach, Whitey, a 4-foot-high guy with 2-sized feet – also played by Sandler in a screeching, high-pitched voice – persuades the judge to let Stone be a volunteer coach for kid’s basketball with him. The judge remembers how Stone had a great jump shot and agrees.

Stone proceeds to torment Whitey and the youngsters. He even locks Whitey in an outhouse and pushes him down a hill, covering him in shit, where he freezes into a “poopsicle.” It was gross, but the kids got a chuckle when Whitey’s guardian gang of deer licked him clean and flashed their shit-eating grins. Sorry to ruin that wonderful moment, but it’s a good example of what to expect.

The true hero is Whitey. He’s one of those classic little men who are continually dealt a bad card. Who are generous without reward and don’t ask for much. He lives with his sister – the best Sandler voice in this thing – who is in a perpetual search for the thugs who stole her Liz Taylor wig. Whitey’s actually kind of inspiring.

It’s disturbing how Whitey likes to go to the mall to get cheered up, though. About halfway through this stinker, it becomes apparent that those mall scenes are probably the only things that got this movie released. Even Hanukkah, after all, is partially about consumption.

Even with Hollywood’s low common denominators for money-making releases, it’s a head-scratcher how this film got released. Having Adam Sandler involved is sure to bring in a couple of bucks, but not when you try to put his humor into an already awful script.

The secret behind this production has to be the half dozen or so chain stores whose fee for such prominent placement likely paid for this whole film when no executive producer or major studio with dollar signs tattooed in their eyes would touch it.

The chain stores were actually written into the script a few times, not just placed in the background. They are the subject of a long song in which their names and logos are featured repeatedly, and also play a major role in Stone’s transformation into an almost nice guy.

He may deal with his demons, say hello to his inner 12-year-old and do a couple good deeds by the end of the film, but his transformation isn’t convincing and neither is this film’s sentiment.

Oh, well, who needs another mall-loving shit-throwing holiday movie anyway?