The life of an adult, as everyone is quick to remind us, is pretty hectic. Folks juggle their jobs, their children, and their romantic lives in an ultimately futile effort to achieve some sort of stalemate. As with all games of chance, however, the house will eventually win, and those we leave behind after our inevitable deaths are forced to evaluate our performance as spouses, parents, and co-workers.
Michael Newman (Adam Sandler) knows this as well as anyone. He works like a dog at his architectural firm, disappointing his wife Donna (Kate Beckinsdale) and two kids in the process. Spending more time with them isn’t an option, because he’ll lose out on a shot at becoming partner. Beset by innumerable demands on his time, Michael yearns for something – anything – that will allow him to catch a break.
Not that anyone forced him to have kids or take a thankless job in the first place, but I digress.
Luckily for Michael, he meets Morty (Christopher Walken), an eccentric older gent working in the uncharted reaches of his local Bed Bath & Beyond (“Click” leaves few product placement stones unturned). Morty bestows the harried fellow with a truly “universal” remote. The device allows him to pause, rewind, and fast-forward his life, much like that newfangled TiVo gadget all the kids are talking about on the MySpace. Before long, he’s skipping unwanted confrontations, tormenting the pain in the a*s kid who lives next door, and getting ahead at his job. Problem solved, right? Not so fast, for as it turns out, this particular remote remembers your life preferences, meaning if you skip something once, it assumes you want to skip it every time. Will Michael be able to handle this new wrinkle – if you will – in time?
Among the first things I noticed was that Michael only uses the remote on himself, his family, and his boss, and I’m not sure why. He obviously believes a promotion and attendant salary increase will maximize quality time with his family, so why not just hit the pause button inside a bank vault, or if that fails the moral compass test, a casino? Why not load some child porn onto the boss’ computer, or is mentally abusing his family and victimizing the neighbor boy as low as he’s willing to stoop?
Maybe I’m overthinking this. I admit, I got a few good laughs out of “Click,” just as I did out of “Happy Gilmore” and…“Happy Gilmore.” The problem with Sandler’s latest movies is that he now feels the need to inject some sort of dramatic conflict in order to complete his character’s shallow story arc of maturation/redemption. Introducing such mawkish sentimentality causes the humor level in his films, never that elevated to begin with, to sink like America’s credibility overseas.
Ask Steve Martin or Robin Williams.
“Click” starts off looking like most any other Adam Sandler movie: Classic rock? Check. Characters named ‘O’Doyle?’ Check. Washed-up actors (David Hasselhoff and Henry Winkler) in supporting roles? Check. Sandler himself singing annoying songs? Check. All we’re missing is a Rob Schneider cameo. It’s like taking the Wayback Machine to 1995 (hell, Sandler himself hasn’t even bothered to get a different haircut).
Then, as the remote assumes control of Michael’s life around the film’s halfway mark, “Click” takes a hard right and we’re subjected to yet another rehash of the universal themes found in current mainstream cinema: putting family first, living each moment as if it were your last, and wringing maximum schmaltz out of shoddy old age makeup. The movie’s ending will come as a complete surprise to anyone not familiar with “It’s a Wonderful Life,” “A Christmas Carol,” or the 7th season of “Dallas.” It’s lazy. Worse, it’s not funny, something most Sandler fans – misguided are not – are probably looking for.
Sandler has a profitable niche going, and there’s little reason for him to deviate from it. Until he decides to take more chances however facile crap like “Click” is all we’re likely to get from him.