Yes, you read that title right. Animated Anarchy isn’t just about praising or laying waste. This day I will stand up for my beliefs and defend the much-chastised Eight Crazy Nights. Thankfully, since Adam Sandler has released about 10 worse movies since 2002, this article might convince you it isn’t as bad as it once seemed.
Even with all of his shortcomings, I still have to give the man credit for making the only wide-released Animated Chanukah Movie.
Originally, I wanted to do an article about non-traditional Holiday Specials as we all have our favorite Christmas movies in the animated field. Yet, even with all the holiday films pumped out every year on TV or theaters, there’s hardly anything out for the rest of the religions. Eight Crazy Nights appears in every single list of Best Chanukah Specials because the selection is as sparse as every kosher “aisle” in a supermarket.
Although I am not Jewish or a practitioner of the faith, my grandparents were, and I’ve always had an admiration for the culture. Seeing a Jewish character (who was not a blatant stereotype) with an episode devoted to them was always pretty neat to see. There are the satirical episodes and parodies done in South Park using the Broflovski family or you have more respectful episodes in shows like Hey Arnold with the character of Harold. I can actually recall more episodes that try to handle several religions at once such as Pepper Ann’s “A Kosher Christmas” or As Told By Ginger’s “An Even Steven Holiday Special.”
There’s far more characters who are ambiguously Jewish rather than full Hebrew. Hell, many of the lists I see include An American Tail as a holiday watch because of Fievel Mousekewitz’s heritage and family. Eight Crazy Nights actually has good scene pointing this out where everyone shouts “Merry Christmas!” to be followed by a small crowd saying “Happy Hanukkah” as they are both announced by the mayor. There’s a lot of context in Eight Crazy Nights that makes me adore it so much as a guilty pleasure.
I saw Eight Crazy Nights three times in theaters. Over the same weekend. I loved it and I still defend many of the merits of the film, despite its overwhelming amount of poop jokes. The animation is gorgeous, with a great, festive aesthetic thanks to several of the artists from The Iron Giant. The score is delightfully seasonal and the songs are return to form to Sandler’s silly, acoustic songs. Davey is a very delightful jerk of a character whose humor and development throughout the movie make it genuinely sincere. Sandler loves the saccharine, but this is one of the few cases where it doesn’t feel crowbarred in. He even has the movie with scads of product placement, but it’s played self-aware and used in the plot.
Many of the complaints of the movie are center around Sandler’s toilet humor and his annoying voices. You can easily tell he’s voicing Davey and Whitey, but his voice for Eleanor required some actual talent. The cast consists mostly of his early-2000s/SNL crew, but they are decently written characters rather than just lazy cyphers. Even Sandler’s voice acting makes sense if you knew that the “Whitey” character was created from one of his comedy albums.
Saying that, I’m not blind to all the movie’s blunders. Most of the mistakes come from how Sandler crams weird oddities into the movie, as he did all the time during his “funny-voice era.” Rob Schneider is there unnecessarily as Chinese waiter, plus he voices the narrator who will comment on things directly at the most random things, and there’s weird, disturbing people-gags like the three-breasted woman or the mayor’s wife (who was once a he.) If anything, it’s strange how Eight Crazy Nights was one of his last really creative endeavors. And the way Sandler lazily craps out movies these days is just repugnant. (My feelings about Adam Sandler’s descent and crappy attitude are better covered in Thomas Mariani’s article here.) But I’d go so far as saying that Eight Crazy Nights is better than Hotel Transylvania.
I wanted to really enjoy Hotel Transylvania as most critics said it was a return to form for the comedian, but in all honesty…it’s lame. Not that Adam Sandler didn’t try, because his voice acting is one of the best parts of the film. Many people attribute this movie towards Genndy Tartakovsky’s directing anyway. His art-style translated well into CGI and his love for old humor is well present, but Hotel Transyvania is super weak from a writing standpoint.
I don’t want to harp too much on the movie, but Eight Crazy Nights had better music and a better plot. Hotel Transylvania is a typical, fragmented love story where so many of the problems would be solved if people talked straight for five minutes. I even noticed that both films have a similar plot-point, relying on an unopened gift of a dead relative. Hotel Transylvania is more family friendly movie, but I was frequently annoyed by so many of the familiar and surprisingly tension-free beats. When you have Dracula in broad daylight for far too long and you end on a song featuring Sandler and Andy Samberg rapping with auto-tune, I don’t feel confident in recommending that movie. And it’s worth noting that there was advertising that spoiled the entire thing.
Eight Crazy Nights is a very peculiar case for me. Over time, I see more of the issues it has, but I can’t in good consciousness agree when people say it’s the worst Adam Sandler movie. It makes me want to defend it even more when people bashed it, as people casually forget about more offensive, frustrating movies of I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry, Bedtime Stories, and Grown Ups 2. No matter how much you may hate Eight Crazy Nights, it does deserve some merit for representing Chanukah.
I’ve really tried scouring the Internet for other animated shows or films that cover Chanukah or Passover. There’s hardly anything for other religions, even with Kwanzaa being slowly eased out in recent times. Thankfully, I can point to one shining example from my childhood that represented the Jewish Culture. It’s relevant, it was critically acclaimed and funny, and it’s going to be a more faithful re-telling of a classic, biblical story than Ridley Scott’s version.
Rugrats was a really good show that helped make Nickelodeon become the network it is today. It’s actually aged very well and has a lot of mature subtext that goes beyond the humor of babies getting in trouble. So every winter, I would sit in front of the TV and watch the Rugrats Passover Special. A few years later, I would continue to watch it again joined by the Rugrats’ Chanukah Special.
The Passover episode focuses on Granpda Boris telling the story of Passover to the children while the parents struggle to follow the Seder. And as the biblical story goes on, the babies play the role of Hebrew slaves with Tommy as Moses and Angelica as the pharaoh. It coves everything from Moses’s discovery, to his relationship to the pharaoh, the plagues, and even the parting of the red sea. It’s wonderful, it’s simple, and it touches on so many parts of the culture of history of the holiday.
Rugrats Chanukah Special is also amazing in it’s own right. The story of Exodus is fairly well known at this point, but Chanukah’s origins are hardly touched on at all. The story is still told with the babies playing the roles of Judah, The Maccabees, and King Antiochus, but it’s charming all the same. That’s why we need more holiday specials like what the Rugrats did; we have so many “origin” stories of Santa Claus and the positive messages from Christmas already.
Along with that, go watch The Prince of Egypt, as shown above. The film is the best telling of Exodus without a comedic edge that makes Moses a real, human character. The voice acting is phenomenal, the songs are great, and the animation is quite stunning. Many people forget that it’s a Dreamworks; showing that it had a real pedigree before the big shift to CGI.
What’s sad about this is that there should be more diversity when it comes to holiday specials. I love Christmas as much as that, but how often do we actually involve “Christ?” Rugrats is even one of the few shows to also do a special on Kwanzaa too. Maybe that’s why I genuinely dig Eight Crazy Nights. It doesn’t have to equate Judaism to an old story. And like so many holiday movies before it, if you can get past the cheesiness or raunchiness of the movie, you can absolutely love it.
This festive time is all about forgiveness and out of all the bad stuff Sandler has done; I still find such joy in his early work. With Happy Gilmore, Billy Madison, and this movie, there’s a wonderful, but immature sense of fun that reminds me of what I love about the holiday. If you still want to tell me that this movie is an awful trainwreck, then I just give one expression to you.
Thanks for reading this seasonal edition of Animated Anarchy. If you completely disagree with me or want to start a duel to defend Hotel Transylvania, then go ahead and comment below! There’s a lot to talk about with Adam Sandler on the line.