Adam Sandler is certainly a comedian that's made an impression ever since his debut on SNL back in 1990. Say whatever you want to say about him and his comedy, he's someone that knows how to draw crowds as his films have made almost $2 billion at the box office combined. That's a lot. If there's anything I can say about him, it's that I really do think he can act and does have range. Back in 2002, Sandler made a romantic-comedy/drama film with director Paul Thomas Anderson called "Punch-Drunk Love" and it was a film I loved a lot. The film really showed Sandler's skills as an actor and that he can give a great performance if he has the right material. The reason I bring up "Punch-Drunk Love" is that it more than makes up for "Eight Crazy Nights", his animated holiday film from the same year that I found really hard to get through. This is one of those animated films where I heard a lot of bad things about going into it and now having finally seen it, I can say that it's just as bad as you've heard. This was not a good holiday flick.
In the town of Dukesberry, a drunken man and the town jerk named Davey Stone (Adam Sandler) has been arrested once again for committing another crime. During his sentencing in court, an elderly man named Whitey Duvall (also Sandler) comes to his rescue by making him a referee in training for youth basketball. However, the judge warns Davey that if he commits one more crime, he'll be given at least a ten-year sentence in prison. From there, Davey learns to try to be a better person with the help of Whitey throughout Hanukkah and learn to get along with the other people in town including his old classmate Jennifer (Jackie Titone), her son Benjamin (Austin Stout), and even Whitey's twin sister Eleanor (again also Sandler) and from there, wacky hijinks ensue.
Before I get into my major problems with this film, I should start off by talking about the things that I really liked about this film. For starters, I do appreciate that Adam Sandler wanted to make a Hanukkah film since there aren't many out there and I think that is a noble gesture. I also think the animation for this film is very good and has a lot of effort put into it. It reminded me a lot of "The Iron Giant" with the character designs in particular and I think there's a lot of great work that went into it. Even minor details like computer animation cars and trucks still look pretty good and I got to give props to director Seth Kearsley for making the animation look as good as it does. I've always admired Kearsley's work which includes directing a couple episodes of "The Looney Tunes Show", working on "Phineas and Ferb", and has even done some storyboard work for films like "Sing" and I think his direction here is stellar. Apart from that though, this film really was not fun to watch. This felt like a lot like an endurance test and there were many times that I wanted to turn this film off badly. My main problem with the film mainly comes down to the story. I can see where this film is coming from and I do see how a story like this could've worked. It's pretty much trying to be somewhat of a modern spin on "A Christmas Carol" where a grumpy man see the errors of his ways during the holidays and tries to fix it by the time of the big event and I do see some of that holiday spirit come through particularly with a scene where Davey stands up for Benjamin against some bullies who are picking on him during a basketball game and the ending of the film. I can see how this film could work if it had the right touches, but sadly it doesn't. Most of the film feels somewhat crummy and mean-spirited and doesn't have a lot of holiday cheer. It's a film that's filled with a lot of gross-out humor to try to make people laugh and I didn't find it very funny since that humor is not my cup of tea. One particularly gross moment involves Whitey getting shoved down the hill in a porta-potty and being frozen by Davey with a hose. Not only is it not very funny, it just comes off as cruel. It's not like it's impossible to make a holiday film with a couple of dark moments in it and do it well. "Home Alone" and "Gremlins" come to mind, but those films used the darkness around Christmas to their advantage without leaving you uncomfortable. This film just made me feel uncomfortable. It's also not a very well-written film as the film often relies a lot on exposition dumps, sometimes coming from the narrator of the film voiced by Rob Schneider. One notable example is where Davey is in court and the judge just casually drops exposition about Davey and Whitey and it feels so lazy. Also, for a film that runs at only an hour and sixteen minutes, it does feel like it goes on forever. The characters are also the other major problem with this film. Davey is a really unlikeable protagonist and doesn't have that good character development. Throughout most of the film, you see him constantly acting like a jerk to everyone around him and he exhibits very little change throughout the film until the ending. It's really hard for me to root for someone like him compared to a character like Ebenezer Scrooge who also started out as unlikable, but you did have sympathy for him as you watched him. Also like Scrooge, the film does reveal why Davey is a massive jerk that can't stand the holidays, but the emotional payoff doesn't hit as it does in "A Christmas Carol" and it feels rather unearned. It also doesn't help matters that his advisor Whitey is incredibly annoying. I can see this character coming off as lovable and kindly, but Sandler gives him such an annoying and grating voice that it makes the character hard to take seriously and find compelling and his sister Eleanor isn't any better. I know Sandler can do some good voice work as the "Hotel Transylvania" series is proof of that, but this film doesn't show it. The two characters that I did find working were Jennifer and Benjamin. Davey in particular shares some nice moments where he bonds with the latter and it works considering he's not trying to get with his mom. Moments like this showed the film did have the potential to work. It's a shame that a lot of it got buried.
All in all, "Eight Crazy Nights" is not a good holiday flick. Despite some beautiful animation and a few good moments, the story was really unfunny and not well written, and the characters were either exceptionally annoying or unlikeable. This is an endurance test of an animated film and I really do not recommend it at all to watch over the holidays. If you want a better Adam Sandler film from 2002 to watch, I strongly recommend watching "Punch-Drunk Love". That film is seriously fantastic. This film, on the other hand, I only have two words to sum up my thoughts. Oy vey.