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Isn't the Criticism of 'Little Nicky' Just Way Too Picky?

November 27, 2000|JEFFREY L. CONDON | Jeffrey L. Condon is a Santa Monica-based attorney practicing in estate and inheritance planning. He is the co-author of "Beyond the Grave: The Right Way and the Wrong Way of Leaving Money to Your Children (and Others)."

I am a 39-year-old attorney and the married father of three children. Although I have zero to do with the entertainment industry, Calendar is the first thing I read every morning, and I've done so since I can remember. I have never written to you before, but I feel compelled to do so after reading recent commentaries on "Little Nicky" and its star by your critics and various letter writers.

My 11-year-old son, Bradley, is an Adam Sandler fan who desired to see "Little Nicky" on opening weekend. I have seen all of Sandler's films with my son, and I initially was happy to accommodate him. But after reading three reviews that basically said it was probably his worst film ever, I attempted to beg off and motivate him to see something else. Despite my efforts--and even though he knew what the critical consensus was--he still wanted to go.

So, having made an informed decision, I grabbed a few of his friends and another dad and we went and we saw.

What a great time we had! I laughed my head off, right along with my son, his friends, the other dad and the entire audience. There were cheers when the credits rolled. We talked about the film for days afterward and relived sketches of the many funny moments.

I consider myself a reasonably intelligent person. My clients seem to like me. I like slow, methodical art cinema that sends my friends screaming out of the theater ("Barry Lyndon," anyone?). I enjoy the independent films that are screened at the Nuart and the NuWilshire. But who says you can't have that and some sophomoric humor too?

When I left the theater, I thought, "How can the critics have uniformly gotten this film so wrong?" If I may hazard a guess, I believe they have attempted to hold Sandler to a standard of filmmaking that is just not applicable to his movies. When we line up for Sandler's films, we know we're not going to see "The Great Gatsby." We're going to see him do his thing--nothing more, nothing less--and "Little Nicky" was quite consistent with that standard. Critics would be sorely mistaken to walk into the theater with higher expectations.

I also have been amazed at some of the inaccurate generalizations that critics have made about this movie. For example, the new reviewer on "Ebert & Roeper and the Movies" said Sandler's "Little Nicky" voice grated on him, and he pondered aloud why Sandler feels he must always resort to "obnoxious voices" to get a laugh. Maybe it's me, but I don't recall Sandler using anything other than a normal voice in "Happy Gilmore," "The Wedding Singer" and "Big Daddy."

Another reviewer stated that he could not understand how actors of such high caliber as Harvey Keitel and Reese Witherspoon could involve themselves in such a "lowbrow" film, adding that Keitel looked embarrassed to be in it. To me, they looked like they were having a great time with the absurdity of their characters and the story line. Perhaps they truly enjoyed taking time off from their serious acting "day jobs" for the fun of participating in such a goof. Of course, the only way of truly knowing is to ask them.

There is also a joy in "Little Nicky" that I believe the critics have failed to convey. By using references from "The Waterboy"--Henry Winkler and the "You Can Do It" guy--and much of the same cast and crew from each of his previous films (but where was Josh Mostel?), "Little Nicky" brings the audience into Sandler's world as an extended part of his circle of friends. He was winking at the audience, and we winked right back at him.

This is probably reading more into the film than was intended--I did this all the time as an English major at UCLA--but all I know is, it's something I felt while watching the movie.

I am so glad that my son was not swayed by the uniformly bad reviews, as I would otherwise have missed a very funny movie. But more important, after years of allowing myself to be influenced by movie reviews, this experience has taught me to think more independently when making my cinematic choices.

Sandler's movies have given me and my family many enjoyable moments, and we look forward to seeing all that he has to offer the future.

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