Comedy, by design, is an envelope-pushing medium, which means it operates like a time capsule of social sensibilities and respectability politics. What was viewed as edgy or transgressive during the time of a comedian like Lenny Bruce has certainly evolved, and jokes about mocking people for existing in the late ’90s and early ’00s are rightfully out of style. “Eight Crazy Nights” opens with Rob Schneider doing an offensively racist voice of a waiter at a Chinese restaurant, and it’s only downhill from there. When the film isn’t outright problematic, it’s leaning into the most juvenile sensibilities possible.
In arguably its most remembered moment, Davey tosses Whitey into a Port-a-Potty and pushes it down a hill like a sled. It feels like a gag birthed out of the “Jackass” gross-out stunt craze but written by someone who doesn’t understand why “Jackass” is so beloved. When Whitey finally exits the toilet, he’s covered in feces. Adding insult to injury, Davey sprays him with a garden hose to freeze him into a “poopsicle.” A herd of deer shows up and licks the ice until Whitey thaws out, smiling wide to show their poop-covered teeth.
There are genuinely heartfelt moments scattered throughout the story, but the film is constantly derailed by questionable jokes and cheap, discriminatory attempts at “humor.” Davey is given a tragic backstory in an effort to explain his Scrooge-like behavior, but he’s not just a humbug — he’s actively mean-spirited. It’s hard to find laughs in someone whose behavior is often beyond redemption, which also makes it difficult for an audience to feel empathy for him.