The most disappointing thing about being Jewish is the lack of holiday movies. We essentially have two Passover movies, The Prince of Egypt and The Ten Commandments, and one Hanukkah movie, Eight Crazy Nights. Supposedly there is a Hallmark Hanukkah movie that came out last year called Love, Lights, Hanukkah!, but the fact that I didn’t know about it until doing research for this article says all that you need to know.
A part of me gets it. There is nothing cute about Jewish holidays. There are no bunnies or elves or burly men in red suits that fly sleighs through the sky to drop presents down your chimney in the middle of the night. Most of our holidays revolve around this: they tried to kill us, it didn’t work, so let’s celebrate — and there’s nothing cute about that.
That lack of cuteness means there is nothing really conducive about our holidays for commercialization. And for the first and only time in my life, I think that’s totally depressing.
But it’s not all bad, though. Hanukkah’s proximity to Christmas has encouraged attempts at making it more mainstream. In recent years, I’ve seen menorah spotted pyjamas and singing dreidels in stores. All of these attempts, I can confidently say, were because of one funny man who propelled the Jewish “yearning for Christmas” that plagues all Western Jews into the spotlight: Adam Sandler.
In 1995, Adam Sandler debuted “The Hanukkah Song,” our one and only jingle, on Saturday Night Live. “The Hanukkah Song” was and is the most important cultural moment for Jewish children. It acknowledged our cultural isolation during the holidays. A yearning for the commercialized version of Christmas: catchy songs, big trees and pretty lights. Most importantly, it gave us something to hold onto and something to call ours.
Seven years later the animated film Eight Crazy Nights came out. The film’s title is both a line from “The Hanukkah Song,” and a nod to the holiday’s length. You would then think it has something to do with the holiday, but it doesn’t.
Aside from a menorah that pops up a few times throughout the film, it has nothing to do with the Hanukkah. There isn’t really anything Jewish about it except for a few, poorly aged jokes. The story follows a town drunk who, causing trouble during the holidays, is sentenced by a judge to community service. If he commits a crime before his sentence is complete, he has to go to jail for 10 years.
Aside from the spectacular animation that is shockingly on par with The Iron Giant and fun songs, the rewatch was mostly a let down. Undercut by dated jokes that were probably mediocre at best when they first came out, the film doesn’t have much going for it these days. I don’t think I would have found the movie as terrible as I did had I not gone into it expecting a literal Hanukkah movie, not just a movie that coincidentally takes place during Hanukkah. When I listen back to “The Hanukkah Song,” I shouldn’t be surprised. That song is riddled with more pop culture references than references to the holiday. Therefore, I shouldn’t have been surprised that the movie would be the same.
Ultimately, some things don’t age well, and this is definitely one of them. The humour is rude, offensive and crass, which is probably why I never ever see it on television anymore. But the movie isn’t all bad. It was an attempt to give Jews something to call theirs, and for that, I will always love and thank Adam Sandler.