I liked it. It made me laugh. It sometimes gets a bit eye-rolling towards the end, but not so much that I started hating the film and in any case there are still funny bits.
However this doesn't appear to be a universal view. This is an Adam Sandler comedy, in which furthermore he's not just the star but also the the executive producer and writer. Adam Sandler, it seems, is a comedian who has been in a number of films, none of which I appear to have watched. No, I tell a lie. I bailed five minutes into Anger Management
. Anyway, some people just seem to dislike Sandler, while others like him but seem to hate this particular film. It lost money at the box office and was nominated for five Razzies, including Worst Picture and Worst Actor (Adam Sandler).
My opinion of him in this film is that he seems okay, once you've got past the fact that he's playing an annoying dweeb with a stupid face and voice. He's pulling his mouth to one side throughout the film because his brothers once smacked his face with a shovel, while he's got some kind of Goth wannabe hairstyle dangling down over one eye. That's distracting, but more importantly your first impression of him is that he's pathetic. You see, he's playing the Son of Satan. Sounds cool, right? Nope. In fact he has two older brothers (Rhys Ifans and Tom 'Tiny' Lister) and Sandler's playing the whiny useless one you'd think had been born to be bullied. He can hardly do anything for himself. When he gets sent to the land of the living, he doesn't even know about basic stuff like eating, sleeping and not getting himself splattered by trains. (This might sound bad, but fortunately dying just sends you back to the afterlife, i.e. his home. Eventually getting people to kill him so that he can return again becomes quite a convenient way to get around, which is amusing.)
All this satanic stuff is the best thing about the movie, which is lucky because there's lots of it. Hell looks great. The demons are cool. Harvey Keitel is Satan, although apparently he'd been going to be Dustin Hoffman. Then on Earth there are references to The Exorcist and so on, while there's a good deal of fun to be had from this dweebish Sandler also being the Son of the Dark Prince. I loved his scary snoring, for instance.
How much of an edge does this have? Well, the film's working quite hard to stop you from taking it seriously. Ifans and Lister go to Earth to turn everyone evil, but what we see of their activities is so goofy as to be impossible to take literally. Fun, yes, but deliberately stupid. Similarly you've got unrealistic things being broadcast on TV, as in for instance the moment where the news footage pans down to Evil Possessed Governor's smoking shoes of hellfire, not because the news camera would do that but simply because it's required for the film. "I'm cheating on my husband with the weatherman" is another eye-roller. The rat/dog photo of the "ugliest kids imaginable" at the end is similarly not meant to be taken literally.
Nevertheless the fact remains that no matter how rubbish he is at being evil, Sandler is still trying to save Satan and trying to unlock his powers of darkness. You've got to wonder about his new friends doing what the devil says and, in one case, committing murder. Admittedly this hardly counts because the victim is Sandler himself and he'll be coming back again, but even so we still see his head being held underwater in the bathtub. What would you do? There's a Peter Pan/Superman scene where Sandler goes flying over the rooftops with Patricia Arquette, who seems to have decided to trust him after having previously been pissed off, because he's confessed to being the emissary of evil. Hmmmm. Yes, his "I'm the devil" confession was funny, but even so. I wasn't wild about the introduction of Heaven and its angels towards the end of the film because it was giving the script a get-out from being on the side of evil and pushing our sympathies into a much more straightforward (and boring) theological position.
Furthermore the film manages well with the handicap of being American. More specifically it's a mainstream family film that's going to have Bible-bashers in the audience, so it's perhaps surprising that, comparatively speaking, it's as edgy as it is. (I did say "comparatively".) At one point lots of people in wheelchairs smack into a bus, for instance, while there's never a preachy Voice Of The Nervous Studio telling us that the power of God is mightier than the Devil's blandishments, etc. There's an anti-sermon that skirts close to that, but Rhys Ifans gets all the punchlines.
The film even has a bit of an angle on Heaven. Angels are bimbos.
The cast is fun and full of famous faces. Quentin Tarantino gets a recurring cameo as a street preacher, for instance. Harvey Keitel couldn't say he was being stretched, but I was more than pleased to see Rhys Ifans. Reese Witherspoon puzzles me, though. Something about her doesn't convince me that she's a human being. She's sort of airbrushed and android-like. I get the impression that you could shoot her full of bullets and she'd still go on smiling and saying her lines just the same, although that said I also quite like her and I think she does a good job.
In summary, it's good. I'd recommend it. I have to admit that I'm being outvoted this time, but even so I'd say this was a lot of fun. There are two potential downsides: (a) the finale, which keeps being corny rubbish and I can see being a bit of a film-killer, and (b) the fact that Sandler's playing such a doofus. Admittedly that's the whole point. People make jokes about his stupidity, while the other side of the coin is that it's fun to see this dweeb doing cool stuff like the Hell Spider Trick. (Plastic-looking CGI there, though.) Imagine The Omen or The Exorcist, but with Satan as a loser who's even being pushed around by his talking dog. That's the main gag here. For me, it was funny. I'd happily watch it again.
Wow, that peeping tom in the tree was annoying, though.