LITTLE NICKY directed by Steven Brill, written by Tim Herlihy, Adam Sandler and Brill, produced by Robert Simonds and Jack Giarraputo, with Sandler, Patricia Arquette, Harvey Keitel and Reese Witherspoon. 94 minutes. A Happy Madison production. An Alliance-Atlantis release. Opens Friday (November 10). Rating: NN
Paul thomas anderson, director of Magnolia, admits to a fondness for Adam Sandler. He finds his rage intriguing. Artistically, this is the most interesting thing I can think of when it comes to Sandler, who otherwise represents the nadir of idiot comedy. He lacks Jim Carrey's physical gifts and has never demonstrated much verbal dexterity, even in his days as a stand-up. It's been observed that an eight-year-old can watch one of Sandler's films and feel superior to its star, which may be why people like him.
The problem is that his films are now so popular that he can actually get co-stars to appear in them whom we might actually want to see.
In Little Nicky, Sandler plays the son of the devil who must come to Earth to save hell and preserve the balance of good and evil. On board, he has Patricia Arquette, Harvey Keitel and Reese Witherspoon, which is almost enough to make the film worth seeing.
Otherwise, he does Waterboy shtick -- the put-upon innocent who must fight extraordinary odds before getting the girl and kicking some ass.
It's a one-trick acting job. Sandler shifts his jaw to one side and drops his voice into a lispy whisper. That's the extent of the performance, which in the end negates a fitfully funny movie that does have its virtues -- a spectacularly art-directed hell and a hilariously precise performance by Witherspoon as an angel.