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November 29, 2002 - Image 90

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2002-11-29

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.



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11/29
2002

90

Hollywood's first major release with a Festival
of Lights theme comes to the silver screen.

Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles

I

LUNCH SPECIALS $495

Open 7 Days a Week for Lunch & Dinner

Animated Chanukah

NAOMI PFEFFERMAN

a

Restaurant

At The Movies

0 OFF . .

All Take-Outs over $25

c(
- (r pea

Arts & Entertainment

073790

n Adam Sandler's animated
film, Eight Crazy Nights, a self-
professed "33-year-old crazy
Jewish guy" comes off like a .
tweaked Jewish Scrooge.
Haunted by the ghosts of
Chanukahs past, ex-Jewish
Community Center basketball star
Davey Stone (Sandler) rivals the antics
of Sandler's previous angry-doofus
characters. He gets drunk at his local
Chinese restaurant, terrorizes elderly
patrons with a nuclear belch (their
glasses break), moons Christmas carol-
ers and destroys his town's Santa and
menorah ice sculptures.
It takes a Chanukah miracle — and
the intervention of an elfish youth
basketball referee named Whitey (also
voiced by Sandler) — to turn Stone
around and rekindle his faith.
Some might say Eight Crazy Nights
is itself a holiday miracle. Perhaps the
first studio release with Chanukah as a
backdrop, it presents the Festival of
Lights not as Christmas' weak stepsis-
ter but as a vibrant part of the
American cultural fabric. Sandler him-
self wants the movie to do for film
what his hit "Chanukah Song" has
already done on the radio: to provide
an alternative to the Christmas fare
that bombards the popular culture
each December.
"The intention was to write a funny
movie and hope that maybe every year
you get to see it somewhere," the
Jewish actor-comedian, who no longer
does print interviews, told MTV.
Sandler, whose past six films have
racked up at least a half billion dollars in
North America, may be one of few Jews
with the clout to convince a studio to
greenlight a Chanukah-themed release.
While his portrayal of a quirky sales-
man in Paul Thomas Anderson's Punch
Drunk Love is currently generating
Oscar buzz, his penchant for the
puerile has made his own films the
darling of the coveted male teen audi-
ence.
Simultaneously, the overt cultural
narcissism of his "Chanukah Song"
has endeared him to Jewish armchair
. sociologists, according to critics such
as J. Hoberman of the Village Voice.

"Like Barbra Streisand with Yentl
and Steven Spielberg with Schindler's
List, Sandler is using his stature to
produce the kind of Jewish material he
wants," said Sharon Pucker Rivo, exec-
utive director of the National Center
for Jewish Film at Brandeis University.
Eight Crazy Nights is another
Sandlerian brew of Judaism-meets-
pop-culture, so along with halachically
correct menorah lightings, there are
jokes about jockstraps, armpit hair and
poop"-sicles (don't ask).
Although some viewers will raise eye-
brows at the juxtaposition of crude, raw
humor and Yiddishkeit, longtime Sandler
collaborators think it makes sense.
"At its core, this is an Adam Sandler
movie," said Allen Covert, the film's
producer and co-screenwriter with
Sandler, Brooks Arthur and Brad Isaacs.
"Adam wanted to address his core
audience, and Columbia Pictures is in
the moviemaking business," said
Arthur, a veteran music producer and
the film's music supervisor.
"So the movie had to get a little
naughty here and there. But at least
there is a menorah for the world to see,
the first real menorah onscreen. And
Chanukah is part of the spine of our
movie, not just a passing reference.
"It's a great way to introduce the
holiday to people who know nothing
about Jews.
The film's creators have more than a
casual relationship to Judaism. Covert,
38, the son of a Jewish father and a
non-Jewish mother, is studying for his
2003 bar mitzvah at Stephen S. Wise
Temple in Los Angeles. Arthur, who is
in his late 50s, served as junior cantor
to his Brooklyn Orthodox shteibel and
now attends Chabad of Beverly Hills.
In a 1998 Jewish Journal interview,
Sandler, 36, said he grew up playing
basketball on a beleaguered team at his
Manchester, N.H., JCC, which closely
resembles the fictional New England
team in Eight Crazy Nights.
He was one of two Jews in his ele-
mentary school class and, as he sings
in "The Chanukah Song," sometimes
felt like "the only kid in town without
a Christmas tree."
Class clowning was a good way to
make friends; it also provided a
springboard to his future profession.
After an abysmal standup comedy

"

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