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Little Nicky: Platinum Series

Since the release of Billy Madison in 1995 Adam Sandler's films have been roundly and loudly castigated by a throng of indignant critics. With Little Nicky, he may have finally deserved it. Sandler stars as the feeble son of the Devil (Harvey Keitel), sent to Earth to capture his excessively evil brothers and return them to Hell before his father decomposes. In the course of such actions, Nicky must discover his powers, assert himself, and blah, blah, blah. Little Nicky is not without its moments, but sadly for fans of the movie's marquee talent, none of them feature Sandler. In the deeply misunderstood, brilliantly absurdist comedies Billy Madison and Happy Gilmore, star and co-writer Sandler used flimsy, formulaic narratives as a negligible framework for sometimes clumsy but often audacious and surprising comic invention, reinventing the moronic milieu of Jim Carrey as a playground for meta-tomfoolery, busting conventions within a conventional structure. But Sandler's last few films, starting with The Waterboy, have mostly eschewed aggressive laughs for the sake of the pedestrian plotting. As in The Waterboy, Sandler in Little Nicky doesn't even seem interested in searching for laughs beyond a "funny" (and EXTREMELY grating) voice, various dispirited pratfalls, and the requisite tired scatology. The real curse affecting Sandler's laugh-factor is his increasing indulgence of the deadly comedic traits: likability and sentimentality. The defiant and rude Sandler of Madison and Gilmore was much more appealing in his disregard for affection than is the needy, weepy Sandler he's become in recent films. This struggle was essentially depicted in his preceding film, Big Daddy, in which Boob Sandler was soundly and sadly defeated by Blubbering Sandler. Even cast as the son of the Devil, Sandler can't avoid the temptation to appear lovable. The best moments in Little Nicky belong to Sandler-regular Peter Dante in his supporting role as one of a pair of enthusiastic Satanic acolytes, a cameo appearance by Reese Witherspoon, and a definitive appearance by Regis Philbin. The cast also includes Jon Lovitz, Rodney Dangerfield, Quentin Tarantino, Kevin Nealon, Patricia Arquette, reappearances from characters in Sandler's earlier films, and the voice of Robert Smigel, who completely fails to match his hilarious work on "Late Night with Conan O'Brien." Little Nicky is another finely packaged disc in New Line's Platinum Series, in a solid 1.85:1 widescreen transfer and audio in both Dolby Digital 5.1 and Dolby 2.0 Surround. The plentiful extras include one jovial commentary by Sandler, director Steven Brill, and co-writer Tim Herlihy; another commentary featuring lots of cast members, hosted by Michael McKean and featuring Jon Lovitz, Kevin Nealon, Henry Winkler, Ozzy Osbourne, Peter Dante and few others; the documentary Adam Sandler Goes to Hell; the musical featurette Satan's Top Forty, including interviews with Osbourne, Gene Simmons, Ronnie Dio, and other Hell-spawned rockers; the music video for P.O.D.'s Hard Knocks; cast and crew notes; the theatrical trailer and a hidden trailer for Lord of the Rings; and a few DVD-ROM features. Snap-case.
—Gregory P. Dorr



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