Wednesday, December 19, 2012

25 Days of Christmas Movies 2012 - Day 19: One of those Other December Holidays

Yes, I admit it...I run a Christmas centric blog.  I have talked primarily about Christmas movies and yet I still, annoyingly PC as I am, still talk about the "Holidays" as though I am representing all of the December holidays on my blog.  I have no excuse for my behavior, I'm a terrible Christo-centric person (and yes, I even invent words when I so choose).  Whatever could I do to improve my tarnished image? Well, what if I took a break from the holiday of red and green and focused on the 8 day marathon of blue and white?  Yes friends, Hanukkah has come to The Movie Addict's blog and it has arrived with a vengeance.  I personally don't have any Hanukkah memories to tie this entry to, but I did talk to a Jewish friend about it (and no, I'm not merely saying that as an ironic joke).  She told me that compared to Christmas, Hanukkah was like a gift marathon.  She also said that 8 days of presents ways WAY better than just one way.  I won't lie, she gave me a lot of real education on the traditions and customs that go into a traditional Hanukkah and I found it truly fascinating.  I suppose that is what inspired me to look beyond my Christian and secular roots to examine another holiday that people hold dear.  So today, I examine a film inspired by one of it's lead actor's songs.  Let's all get together around the menorah and celebrate Eight Crazy Nights.

In the small town of Dukesberry, New Hampshire, Davey Stone (voice of and resemblance to Adam Sandler), a 33-year-old alcoholic troublemaker with a long criminal record, is arrested for walking out on his bill at Mr. Chang's (Rob Schneider) Chinese restaurant and, while attempting to evade arrest ("Davey's Song"), destroying a giant Menorah/Santa ice sculpture. Davey is about to be sentenced to jail time when Whitey Duvall (Adam Sandler), a 70-year-old volunteer referee from Davey's former basketball league, intervenes and comes forward at his trial. The judge (Norm Crosby), at Whitey's suggestion, sentences Davey to community service as a referee-in-training for Whitey's Youth Basketball League. Under the terms of the community service, if Davey commits a felony before his sentence is completed, he will be sentenced to ten years in prison. The next day, Davey referees his first game, which ends in disaster: after being told to remove his shoes, Davey kicks them off, smashing an overhead lighting fixture with one and striking the timekeeper with the other. He then taunts an obese child, and his parents, who attack Davey in retaliation; Whitey suffers a grand mal seizure, and the game is abruptly brought to an end. Attempting to calm Davey down, Whitey takes him to the mall, where they meet single mom Jennifer Friedman (Jackie Titone, singing voice by Alison Krauss), Davey's childhood girlfriend, and her son, Benjamin (Austin Stout). Though Whitey reminds him that he lost his chance with her 20 years ago, Davey still finds himself attracted to Jennifer. On the way home, Whitey threatens to have Davey arrested after the latter implied that he stole peanut brittle from the mall. However, Whitey decides not to report the incident. As time progresses, Davey and Whitey's relationship becomes more contentious, as Whitey's various attempts to encourage Davey are met with humiliation and assault. Upon arriving home one night ("Long Ago"), Davey finds his trailer being burned down by a man who lost a bet to him. Davey rushes into the burning trailer to rescue a Hanukkah card from his late parents, then watches the trailer go up in smoke. Whitey opens his home to Davey, who reluctantly accepts the invitation.  Soon, Davey finds himself forced to confront what has kept him so miserable all these years when Whitey reminds him of the death of his parents and Davey has to decide if being miserable is worth being alone.

Eight Crazy Nights doesn't do much to differentiate itself from other Holiday comedies in the exception that it uses Hanukkah instead of Christmas in most of it's utterings of the holiday's name...it is not really about the holiday nor about the 'crazy nights' of it's title.  It is more of a standard cliche holiday movie about a despicable person who learns to be a little less so because of the holiday.  Indeed, it is even less about Davey, who is clearly the protagonist, and more about Whitey and what he eventually gets for his trouble.  That doesn't make it a bad film, just a highly confusing one that seems unsure of where it wants to take it's story.  There are some wonderful comic moments and then just as many that fall flat.  The scatological humor adds little to the story in the way of amusing moments and mostly just serves to make the obnoxious characters more obnoxious.  There are some touching moments amidst the mess however, such as when Davey is forced to relive his most traumatic moment of childhood with Whitey and his twin sister or when Whitey is given his due reward.  These scenes are enhanced by Sandler's knowledge of Holiday movie tropes and how he lampoons them with random song lyrics and wit.  It shows how good a comic he is underneath all the obnoxiousness and scat.  This is definitely not a cartoon to watch with the kids and if you hate Sandler's brand of humor, this will not win you over, but if you'd like to see a Holiday movie that talks about more than just Christmas...this is certainly one to go to.


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