Little Nicky

Little Nicky (2000)
New Line Home Entertainment
Cast: Adam Sandler, Rhys Ifans, Harvey Keitel
Extras: Commentary Tracks, Behind-the-scenes Featurette, Heavy Metal Documentary, Music Video, Deleted Scenes, Theatrical Trailer, Cast & Crew Biographies

Apparently, there are two Adam Sandlers working in Hollywood. Both Adams enjoy making movies where the quirky hero overcomes great obstacles, gets the girl, and saves the day. Since 1995, these twin brothers have grown in popularity, going from cult heroes to members of the $100 million club. Adam Sandler #1 was behind films like "Billy Madison" and "Happy Gilmore", making films that were apparently for his own amusement, which were full of bizarre images and strange jokes. Then, Adam #2 seemed to take over with movies like "The Wedding Singer, "The Waterboy", "Big Daddy". These movies continued to deal with some strange themes, but they had a more mainstream and audience friendly edge, and with "Big Daddy", Sandler (almost) took on a romantic leading-man persona. But, now, Adam #1 is back with a vengeance with "Little Nicky". This is his most bizarre film since "Billy Madison", and that may explain why the film died at the box office. Now, New Line Home Video has resurrected "Little Nicky" on DVD so that it can find its (seemingly) intended cult audience.

"Little Nicky" tells the story of Nicky (Adam Sandler), the youngest son of the devil. Nicky lives in Hell and enjoys listening to heavy metal music, and despises his evil older brothers, Adrian (Rhys Ifans) and Cassius (Tommy "Tiny" Lister, Jr.). Satan (Harvey Keitel) announces that after 10,000 years of ruling, it may be time for the throne to be passed to one of his sons. But, as none of them seem fit for the job (Adrian and Cassius are too mean, and Nicky is too sweet), Satan ultimately decides that he will keep the throne for himself. Angered by this decision, Adrian and Cassius flee to Earth, where they plan to rule. Their departure from Hell closes the gates of Hell, thus shutting down the influx of new souls. This, in turn, causes Satan to begin to decompose. Satan’s only hope is for the shy and awkward Nicky to go to Earth and bring Adrian and Cassius back to Hell.

So, Nicky ascends to Earth, where he meets his guide, Mr. Beefy, a sarcastic Bulldog (voiced by Robert Smigel). After Nicky learns to stay on the sidewalk, and is introduced to Earthly cuisine, he moves into an apartment with aspiring actor, Tood (Allen Covert). While searching New York City for his brothers, Nicky befriends Valerie (Patricia Arquette), a shy fashion student, and Peter and John (Peter Dante and Jonathan Loughran respectively), two bumbling satanists, who want to worship Nicky. Through several bizarre mis-adventures, Nicky and his newfound friends chase Adrian and Cassius around the city, as the two brothers inspire New Yorkers to revel in sin. As time is running out for Satan, young Nicky learns to believe in himself and confronts his brothers.

While watching "Little Nicky", it’s pretty obvious why this film didn’t win over Sandler’s newfound fans. My feeling when I walked out of "Billy Madison" was that Sandler had made a film for himself and his friends and that if I didn’t get the jokes, that didn’t really matter. It wasn’t until subsequent viewings of "Billy Madison" that I began to fully understand them. "Little Nicky" leaves a similar impression. It’s very apparent that New Line was glad to have Sandler back in their stable after the success of "The Wedding Singer" and they let his team run wild. The result is an incredibly bizarre film that includes giant horny birds and demons with breasts on their heads. I’m sure that most people went into the film expecting it to be stupid and silly, but this film simply goes insane. Most of the humor is on a 5th grade level and there isn’t a hint of subtly in the film. So, I’m sure that those wanting "Bid Daddy 2" told their friends to stay away from "Little Nicky".

But, if you’re like me, and you enjoyed "Billy Madison" and the more bizarre moments in "Happy Gilmore" and "The Waterboy", then you may love "Little Nicky". As hinted to above, Sandler and writing partner Tim Herlihy go for broke and put in every possible joke. Also, you’ve got cameos by the likes of Quentin Tarantino and Clint Howard, which rival the penguin kissing bus-driver played by Chris Farley in "Billy Madison". And while many of the jokes fall flat (most often the constant slapstick), several of the gags are hilarious, especially those dealing with fried chicken. One of the best gags comes at the end, where we get a joke that gives the feeling that the entire film was reverse engineered so that this scene could exist. The dog Mr. Beefy has some good lines, as do Peter and John, but most of the comedy comes from Todd (proving once again, what a chameleon Allen Covert is). "Little Nicky" is certainly not Sandler’s strongest film, but it does show an actor who’s not afraid to do something different… very different.

New Line Home Video brings us "Little Nicky" as one of their "Platinum Editions" and (yes, I’m going to say it) it’s one hell of a DVD. The movie is presented in a <$PS,letterboxed> format and is framed at 1.85:1. The digital transfer has been <$16x9,enhanced for 16x9> TVs. We’ve come to expect quality from New Line’s DVDs and "Little Nicky" doesn’t disappoint. The image is crystal clear and virtually flawless. For a quick demonstration of the clarity of this DVD, go directly to 1:01:45, where you get a beautiful pastel color palette (a true rarity) and you can see that there is virtually no grain, nor any defects in the source print. The colors in this scene (and throughout the film) are very rich and realistic, giving the image a great sense of depth. In addition, the fleshtones are true and natural. The framing of the image appears to be correct and there’s no interference from artifacting. Despite what you may think of "Little Nicky", there’s no denying the perfection of this transfer.

The wonderful imagery is complemented by a great sound mix. The <$DD,Dolby Digital> 5.1 soundtrack offers a fantastic sound field, and surround sound is used judiciously in the movie. The audio is well-balanced and offers appropriate screen-to-speaker placement of the sound. The scenes in Hell give the listener a great example of this sound field, as there are screams and strange sound effects coming from each speaker. The music in "Little Nicky" is mostly of the rap-metal hybrid variety and it sounds great, offering no distortion, but packing plenty of bass. The dialogue is clear and audible, and there is no hissing on the soundtrack.

Being a "Platinum Edition", "Little Nicky" is big on extra features. There are two audio commentaries included on the DVD. The first features star/co-writer Adam Sandler, director/co-writer Steven Brill, and co-writer Tim Herlihy. This may not be the most informative commentary ever, but it’s certainly entertaining, as these three old friends reminisce about the making of "Little Nicky". With Sandler constantly zinging Herlihy, the trio discuss the origin of the film, the production, and they also mention the studio’s bewilderment over the film. It’s nice to have Sandler finally do a commentary to one of his films, and he comes across like one of his characters. He seems to be a nice guy who just wants to make people laugh. Unfortunately, he spends a lot of this commentary pointing out what’s happening on-screen and referring to himself in the third-person.

The second commentary is a cast commentary hosted by Michael McKean. This commentary features: Blake Clark, Peter Dante, Clint Howard, Rhys Ifans, Tiny Lister, Jonathan Loughran, Jon Lovitz, Kevin Nealon, Ozzy Osbourne, and Henry Winkler. The good point about this commentary is that with such a diverse mixture of people, you get a lot of different viewpoints about the film. Most of the speakers talk about their work on "Little Nicky" and give their thoughts about Adam Sandler. The bad point is that this isn’t a group discussion, but several different interviews which have been edited together. Michael McKean does his best to keep things fresh and moving forward, but this commentary does stagnate at times. But, this is a great example of how New Line is always ready to try something new.

The "Little Nicky" DVD also includes two documentaries. The first is a behind-the-scenes featurette entitled "Adam Sandler Goes to Hell". This 32-minute segment gives a nice overview of the "Little Nicky" production. It opens with Sandler discussing the cast, which is intercut with cast interviews, and then moves on into production design, special effects, and the specifics of Mr. Beefy. Unlike most other "making of" featurettes, this one actually includes a great deal of behind-the-scenes footage and answers many of the "How did they do that?" questions. The second documentary is called, "Satan’s Top Forty" and it explores the world of heavy metal music. Featuring interviews with Gene Simmons, Ozzy Osbourne, and Ronnie James Dio, this 17-minute segment traces the history of heavy metal and explores its audience and mystique. Cast members from "Little Nicky" are featured to give their thoughts on the subject.

To prove that some self-control was used in the making of the film, there are at least 21 deleted or extended scenes (or maybe more) included on the DVD. For most of this footage, it’s a blessing that it was excised, but some of it, especially the last one, is worth viewing. A music video from the band P.O.D. is included, for their song, "School of Hard Knocks". This is presented in Dolby 2-channel surround and sounds very good. The theatrical trailer is included and is <$PS,letterboxed> at 1.85:1 and offers Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. And finally, we have the usual cast & crew filmographies.

Perhaps in these enlightened times, America wasn’t ready for a movie that cast Satan’s family in a positive light. (Although the film shies away from any strong theological statements.) Nonetheless, "Little Nicky" is a unique film that some will find amusing, while others will find it bewildering. Despite this split view, all will agree that the DVD looks and sounds great, and offers many nice special features.