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Any movie that celebrates Popeyes fried chicken as a magical culinary experience—which, of course, it truly is—can’t be all that bad. Which is not to say that Little Nicky is all that good, either. In fact, Adam Sandler’s new cucka-joke-driven comedy—about a sweet-natured son of Satan who must travel from Hades to New York City to battle his sinister brothers (Rhys Ifans and Tommy “Tiny” Lister Jr.) and save his disintegrating papa (Harvey Keitel)—dawdles mostly on the south side of mediocre. This, however, is not the fault of the film’s winning supporting cast: Rodney Dangerfield makes a welcome cinematic return as the one-liner-spewing Grandpa Lucifer; Reese Witherspoon displays some sublime comedic chops as Nicky’s Valley Girlish angel mom; Ifans, the grubby Welshman from Notting Hill, is wickedly good as Nicky’s wayward sibling; and the absolute scene-stealer is a talking hellhound named Beefy (voiced by Late Night With Conan O’Brien writer Robert Smigel, the mastermind behind both Saturday Night Live’s “TV Funhouse” and the greatest network television character since Homer Simpson: Late Night’s Triumph the Insult Comic Dog). No, the most glaring and phenomenally annoying problem with Little Nicky is the star of the show himself: As the title character, Sandler, with an unchanging twisted grimace, delivers his lines in a hushed Igor growl—and makes whimpering Bobby “the Waterboy” Boucher sound like James Earl Jones. Because of this performance, extended chunks of the flick are all but unbearable. And before you go thinking that Sandler and longtime collaborators Tim Herlihy and Steven Brill (who also directs) have finally come up with a somewhat novel plot line, well, stop thinking that: Little Nicky is really just a far-less-funny rehash of Happy Gilmore and Big Daddy—lovable loser overcomes insurmountable odds to save a relative and get the girl (in this case, a homely Patricia Arquette)—but with the dubious bonuses of really, really expensive CGI effects (demons are constantly boogering out of people’s noses), a climactic cameo by a dazed Ozzy Osbourne (basically the Billy Idol role from The Wedding Singer), and a smattering of female nudity (OK, so a male demon grows female breasts on his head, but trust me, they take up considerable big-screen real estate).

—Sean Daly