It's A Remote Controlled Life
Never give a man-child the remote. Adam Sandler is the right actor-producer to bring us a crass comedy about a universal changer that can zap the world into submission. He's in his element in Click as an angry, junk-food eating guy juggling the demands of career and family; thinking up rude uses for this powerful piece of technology required little effort. But then he gets all schmaltzy and teary-eyed, asking the audience to buy him as a latter-day Jimmy Stewart. That's a lot to ask.
If Sandler really wanted to be taken seriously, he would have avoided the gags that entail breaking wind in the boss's face and watching the dog hump a stuffed toy. Any couch potato could come up with those. In this life, the immature Sandler dominates by keeping a firm grip on the changer until the bitter end.
Suburban dad and husband (married to the out-of-his-league Kate Beckinsale) Michael Newman is an overworked architect. The first part of Click is a spirit-sapping exercise due to Michael's cranky demeanor and mean responses to life's pressures. It has all the earmarks of a typical Happy Madison production: xenophobic jokes are made at the expense of an Arab prince and a Japanese family; and the boob, pooh, and penis-size references inevitably follow. The humor is as unhealthy as Michael's diet. A bright spot is David Hasselhoff, who doesn't put a foot wrong as his Larry Tate employer, surrounded by top-heavy secretaries and leaning on Michael to carry the firm.
Help comes after a late-night visit to his local Bed, Bath & Beyond when Michael meets a mad scientist played by Christopher Walken sporting a lab coat, tennis shoes, and a shocked hairdo. Morty observes "Guys need a break once in a while," and provides the magic remote with vague words of caution. The device enables Michael to freeze-frame reality, and fast-forward over life's disagreeable parts -- showering, traffic, fights with the missus, obligatory sex and dinners with his extended family. He can also rewind back to early episodes in his life. It's the ultimate avoidance device -- a tool for zoning out or going on autopilot.
Lacking precision while gaining a mind of its own, the clicker starts memorizing Michael's habits and programs itself to automatically skip over things. It begets a form of cognitive and emotional impairment that he decides too late he doesn't want. In a different filmmaker's hands, this aphasia could be a rich metaphor for society's reliance on drugs and self-help techniques. In Click, it resembles a disorienting state of early-onset Alzheimer's.
The net result is that Michael becomes wildly successful in business but loses the love of his family. The fairy tale becomes a nightmare. The sector of the audience that comes to an Adam Sandler movie for the crude stuff won't warm up to this mid-life crisis, with its obvious echoes of Frank Capra's holiday perennial It's a Wonderful Life. Sandler and company don't completely abandon those seeking sophomoric humor however, offering topical cracks about Britney Spears and Michael Jackson, dashes of homophobia, and of course flatulence. In one sense, this comedic style does jibe with a serious drama about regrets and a life wasted. The final reel looks like a chance to create futuristic sets and have Rick Baker age the company, including Julie Kavner and Henry Winkler who play Michaelís parents, with obvious make-up designs.
Click does extend the premise farther than you expect. The question is whether you want or need to go there with Sandler as your escort. Endeavoring to make the audience laugh and cry is a noble goal, but old-fashioned as it sounds, Sandler doesn't have the class to pull it off. He can't filter enough out and betrays a youth spent in front of the TV, doing bong hits, listening to rock 'n' roll, and preparing for a life of high-tech consumerism. Don't blame the hardware or the software. It's the person using the gadget that's at fault.
(Released by Columbia Pictures and rated "PG-13" for language, crude and sex-related humor some drug references.)