In the course of a few years, Iíve gone from trashing Adam Sandler in print, to grudgingly accepting him, to actually liking him. The comedian has moved away from early obnoxious movies like The Waterboy and onto more interesting films like 50 First Dates and Anger Management. Now Iíve reached the next point in the evolutionary process: liking Sandler enough to cut him some slack. His new movie Click has some pretty substantial flaws; so much so that at times I felt like it was going to fly completely off the rails. The analytical part of my mind saw things that could (or should) have been done better, while the frivolous part of my mind kept telling the analytical side to shut up and just enjoy the movie. Thatís the side that ultimately won out.
Sandler plays Michael Newman, an architect whose boss (David Hasselhoff) never seems to follow through on the promise of a promotion. Michael works tirelessly to please his boss, and the long hours mean less time with his wife Donna (Kate Beckinsale) and his two young kids. This has caused considerable tension within the family. On an evening when he is already feeling particularly harried, Michael has trouble managing all the remote controls on the living room table. He just wants to turn on the TV, but opens the garage door and flips on the ceiling fan instead. Frustrated, he storms out of the house to buy a universal remote.
Because itís the only place open, he ends up at Bed, Bath & Beyond. A strange guy named Morty (Christopher Walken), who works all the way at the back of the store, says he has such a remote. He even gives it to Michael for free. It turns out to be a universal remote that controls the universe. Michael can fast forward through fights with his wife, pause his boss long enough to administer a smacking, and skip over the unpleasant parts of his day. He can also hear audio commentary about his life and view a ďmaking ofĒ feature, which essentially means witnessing his parents having sex thirty-some years prior.
While the remote seems like a blessing, it comes with some drawbacks. First, Michaelís physical presence goes on ďautopilotĒ during the times when his mind jumps ahead. This causes further problems with Donna, who thinks heís being unresponsive. The other problem is that the remote works kind of like Tivo; it programs itself based on his preferences. This proves to be most problematic of all, as the remote starts automatically skipping Michael ahead in time. Before he knows it, heís an old man who has missed all the best parts of his life.
So hereís what doesnít work with Click: For starters, the mix of comedy and pathos doesnít entirely gel. The filmís early scenes contain all the sophomoric humor one would expect from an Adam Sandler comedy. Flatulence jokes? Check. Sex gags? Check. Bizarre Rob Schneider cameo? Check. In the last half hour, when the ďheartĒ of the movie comes into play, the tone switches to Ė get this Ė melodrama. It turns out that Click isnít content to just tug on your heartstrings; it wants to physically yank them out of your body. Sandler cries and emotes as his character laments all the time he has lost with his family. The screenplay lays on one scene of unrelenting sap after another. Most egregious example: an aging Michael falls to the ground and cries in the pouring rain as his grown son walks away. While the message of the movie is certainly sound, the presentation goes a little overboard.
I also had problems accepting the vision of the future that is presented here. Late in the film, the story flashes forward to the year 2021. Suddenly, the characters are living in an ultra high-tech society that looks like something out of Minority Report. Thatís fine for a sci-fi flick, but for a comedy (especially one that strives to be touching), itís distracting. The future on display isnít convincing and it often threatens to overpower the story. Weíre supposed to be caring about Michaelís belated awakening. The film would have been better served with a less flashy, effects-laden future.
My defense of Click is much simpler: it made me laugh. The concept of a universal remote is a good one, and the movie finds a lot of ingenious ways for the character to use it. (I love the moment where he plays with the color settings and turns himself green and purple.) Thereís real entertainment value to the notion that a remote control could change this guyís life in so many ways. I found myself waiting with amusement for each new use Michael would find for it.
Adam Sandler has mastered a certain kind of humor, which he does very well. Sure, thereís a lot of low-brow comedy here, but Sandler brings such charm and likeability to the movie that I didnít mind. Plus, you get Christopher Walken in full-on weirdo mode Ė always a plus Ė for additional laughs.
I guess what it comes down to is that I liked Click as a light comedy. Itís fun, and it has moments of cleverness, and I liked the general point the film made, even if it laid the sap on a little thick. Itís a flawed film, but most people go to Adam Sandler movies to just unwind and have fun. It works at that level.
That said, I do think itís time for Sandler to stretch a little more. Most of his movies are made with the same stable of people Ė the same writers, the same directors, the same producers, the same costars. We know he can crank out pleasant, unassuming comedies like Click. And thatís fine. But if I had a universal remote, I would fast-forward Sandlerís career a little bit. Punch-Drunk Love and Spanglish proved thereís more to him than you can see on the surface. Like the character he plays in this movie, he needs to be aware that life (in Hollywood) has lots of wonderful possibilities, and to miss out on them would be a shame.
( out of four)
Click is rated PG-13 for language, crude and sex-related humor, and some drug references. The running time is 1 hour and 38 minutes.
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