Click (2006) / Comedy-Fantasy

MPAA Rated: PG-13 for language, crude humor, sexual humor, and some drug references
Running Time: 106 min.

Cast: Adam Sandler, Kate Beckinsale, Christopher Walken, David Hasselhoff, Henry Winkler, Julie Kavner, Sean Astin, Jennifer Coolidge, Joseph Castanon, Jake Hoffman, Johan Hill, Tatum McCann, Lorraine Nicholson, Katie Cassidy, Cameron Monaghan, Rachel Dratch, Frank Coraci (cameo), Tim Herlihy (cameo), Rob Schneider (cameo)
Director: Frank Coraci
Screenplay: Steve Koren, Mark O'Keefe, Tim Herlihy, Adam Sandler
Review published June 25, 2006

There is probably no film this year I'll struggle with in terms of how I feel about it than Click, a mix of surprisingly mature comedy mixed jarringly with downright juvenile moments of gross-out gags.  Many have compared the film to It's a Wonderful Life, and while there is an undeniably Capra-esque quality to the story, I think the films are sufficiently different to avoid claiming it as a carbon copy.  It's a Wonderful Life is a lesson in what one man's life means to that of everyone around him, while Click is really about what everyone else's life means to the one man. 

Other similarities do exist (the angel, for instance), but if one really wants to place Click in the proper context, it should really be lumped in more with the high-concept comedy-fantasies that have been made in more recent years, like Groundhog Day and Bruce Almighty, whereby a malcontent jerk learns a valuable lesson that his unhappiness with his life isn't really caused by outside forces, but rather, it resides squarely within himself.   Not surprisingly, it should be noted that the screenplay for Click is written and produced by Steve Koren and Mark O'Keefe, the men that brought us Bruce Almighty.

Adam Sandler (The Longest Yard, Spanglish) stars as workaholic father and husband Michael Newman, an architect that continuously has been putting his family on the backburner so that he can finally get that promotion to partner in his company and finally getting that sense of achievement that has always been eluding him all his life.  One of the many frustrations of his home life happens to come from the ridiculous amount of remote controls in his house, most of which he has no idea how to use or what they control.  To simplify things, he opts to get a universal remote so that he can control all of his appliances with one simple-to-use item. 

The only store open at the time is "Bed, Bath & Beyond", who generally don't sell entertainment electronics, although a trip to the fictional "Beyond" section proves to yield results.  Behind the strange door is an oddball of an inventor named Morty (Walken, Wedding Crashers), who just so happens to have a universal remote -- a remote that allows Michael to control his own universe, literally.  When Michael takes it home, he finds he can use the remote to pause or fast forward through events of his life, change the appearance or volume of objects, and a sundry of other handy uses that makes all of the tedium and annoyances virtually disappear.  However, the remote has one feature Michael didn't know about: it intuitively remembers patterns in his behavior, and whenever he encounters a similar situation where it is usually employed, it automatically performs the function it has stored in its memory.  Soon, Michael can't get the remote to stop, and now his life is literally flashing before his very eyes, and he's not liking what he sees.

It sounds like an extended episode of "The Twilight Zone", and in fact, there is a similarity to one of the the classic Rod Serling offerings, "A Kind of Stopwatch", whereby a self-centered man discovers a stopwatch that can stop time, which he uses to take control of his life, but which has tragic consequences caused by his own selfish behavior (1980's made-for-TV film, The Girl, the Gold Watch, and Everything also lifted this premise).   Of course, this is an Adam Sandler film, which usually means that it is going to take a much more comedic approach, although it does still maintain the very dark nature of the main theme of a life wasted amidst all of the surrounding slapstick and goofiness.

I have to admit here that my expectations for Click were about as low as could be going in, and I was surprised by how engaged I was in the film once the fantasy premise was underway.  Director Frank Corsaci (Around the World in 80 Days, The Waterboy) does imbue the film with the necessary element of the fantastic to buy into the farfetched premise, and the main story elements as conceived of by Koren and O'Keefe provide just the right ingredients to deliver all of the comedy, tragedy, and heartbreak that the moral lessons at the core of the film require to succeed.  As nutty as it might sound when you first hear of the plot, it amazingly does work.

If there is anything to complain about, it's the cheapening of the Koren/O'Keefe screenplay by Adam Sandler and longtime Sandler collaborator Tim Herlihy (Mr. Deeds, Little Nicky).  I did get some solid laughs at some of the film's most crass moments of humor, but I do think that all of the sophomoric antics come at a heavy price.  It's a tall order to try to inspire us to be better people with a morality play of sorts, and then inject the film with some very crude and lewd moments, especially when so much time is spent on them.  For instance, as much screen time is given to the escapades of the family dog, who just can't seem to be able to stop humping the oversized stuffed duck laying on the floor in the living room, as there is for the relationship between Michael and his children.  While the humor involving the dog is undeniably funny through constant repetition, it also does reduce the emotional momentum of the film, which results in a lessened pay-off as the film tries to go for your heartstrings with an emotional and mostly serious climax. 

We're expected to feel something for this shallow and hotheaded jerk without really giving us enough moments of his better qualities, which makes Morty's assertions that he is trying to help Michael because he is a good man ring very hollow.  A scene involving Michael stopping time to slap around his boss (Hasselhoff, "Baywatch") and then fart into his mouth is deemed a much more worthy exploration than in the relationship between Michael and his parents.  When Michael is confronted with the fact that his father (Winkler, Holes) has passed away, the story goes right into heavy sentimentality, but without the necessary build-up, it has no authority to earn the heart-wrenching feelings from us it practically begs for.

Yet, for all of its sizable detractions, Click does deliver the goods for Sandler fans, whom I suspect will think this one of his better vehicles to date.  Not really being a huge Sandler fan, I also found it surprisingly funny and thoughtful enough to keep my interest, although my recommendation of the film comes with heavy reservations, as the mix of the sublime with the crass may prove to be too toxic to stomach for many viewers out there.  If only Sandler could resist the temptation to smear all of his films with his own immature impulses, we might actually have one of the year's best comedies.  Instead, we wish we could take that remote away from Sandler and control him with it ourselves, if only so that we could make him stop metaphorically farting in our faces whenever we actually make the mistake of thinking he is finally maturing into a performer worthy of our respect and admiration.

 Qwipster's rating:

2006 Vince Leo