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Little Nicky (2000)
Director: Steven Brill

review by Jeff Young

This is one of those films where it soon becomes clear that the main stars had a lot more fun making it than the audience are ever going to have watching it, but that doesn't necessarily make it un-watchable, or even bad.
   Little Nicky stars Adam Sandler, playing the idiotic and completely innocent son of Satan. He's actually not all that dumb, just very sheltered and trusting. The plot is notably weak and designed purely to serve as a vehicle for the various devil jokes. Satan's other sons have decamped to conquer Earth, leaving poor Old Nick slowly disintegrating because of a lack of new wicked souls to feed on. And so, it's down to the young Nicky to pursue and recapture his older half-brothers, in order to save his dear dad. Oh, did I mention this is an out-and-out comedy?
   Various genre tropes are gently undermined, rather than cunningly subverted, and yet the possessions lead to scenes of almost surreal comedy, not to mention a raft of digital morphing effects. Some of the jokes about evil - with or without the capital 'E' - fall entirely flat, but others are genuinely witty (the hungry demon and the fluffy white bunny is just sick). Rodney Dangerfield plays aged Lucifer; Harvey Keitel takes on the mantle of Satan, while Rhys Ifans and former wrestler 'Tiny' Lister fill the roles of Satan's rebellious sons Adrian and Cassius, wrecking social mischief throughout New York in their attempts to create a private domain. There's also an uncharacteristically dowdy role for Patricia Arquette as the daft Nicky's romantic interest, and cameos by Henry Winkler (who confesses that his idea of 'Hell' is "not having a point of view"), and Ozzy Osbourne (yes, he does his famed trick with a bat). With Reese Witherspoon leading excitable cheerleader angels in the birthday cake Heaven, and a couple of no-brainer rock fans eager to access all areas of the film's heavy metal Hades, Little Nicky shuffles its pack of popular cinema references, with scenes that spoof Lynch's The Elephant Man, Richard Donner's Superman movie and even Coppola's version of Dracula. The talking bulldog called Mr Beefy, and the Harlem Globetrotters sequence add idiosyncratic flavour to the mix, as does Quentin Tarantino's loudly manic street preacher.
   Little Nicky works haphazardly, despite its faults, and scenes like the torture of Hitler with a pineapple, and the troubles Nicky has with earthly routines - such as eating and sleeping - are almost certainly a lot funnier if you're just back from the pub, and well over the legal limit.
previously published online, VideoVista #28
Little Nicky
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