A film review by Craig J. Koban

CLICK jj
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2006, PG-13, 98 mins.

Michael Newman: Adam Sandler / Morty: Christopher Walken / Donna Newman: Kate Beckinsale / Mr. Ammer: David Hasselhoff / Bill: Sean Astin / Alice/Alan: Rachel Dratch / Ted Newman: Henry Winkler / Trudy Newman: Julie Kavner

Directed by Frank Coraci /  Written by Steve Koren and Mark O'Keefe

The new comedy CLICK has some definitive echoes of two particular films – the great IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE and A CHRISTMAS CAROL.  Actually, on a basic story level, CLICK owes more to the latter film mentioned in the sense that it focuses on one Scrooge of a character that is given – through a series of extraordinary circumstances – the ability to transport himself into his past and future.  It’s superficially like the Jimmy Stewart fable in the sense that it has Capra-esque vibes through it (especially in the end) when the man realizes – gosh darn it – that he actually had a wonderful life that was worth living. 

CLICK differs in one enormous and specific manner than either of those films.  In one scene we see another man stick out his rear end in his boss’s face and pass gas right in his open mouth.  This leads me to a few conclusions: (a) Frank Capra never needed fart humor to drive his stories and (b) Adam Sandler sure as hell isn’t Jimmy Stewart. 

Oy vey.  Unless you’ve been living under a rock somewhere, welcome to the world of the typical Adam Sandler comedy. 

The very fact that CLICK is manipulative in terms of its sensibilities and sentimental value are not the films derogatory aspects.  I mean, Capra had a field day preying on audience emotions and milking them – at just the correct time – for the appropriate effect.  Also, the fact that CLICK is derivative does not immediately disown it completely either (many films have road in on the coattails of IT’S A WONDERFUL LIKE and A CHRISTMAS CAROL).  As a matter of fact, the final 30 minutes of CLICK are surprisingly effective and dramatically moving. Those moments made me feel for the characters and actually give a damn about what was happening to them.  If the film’s first 60 minutes were as strong, emotional, and moderately heartrending as its final thirty, then we would have really had something here.  Alas, this is an Adam Sandler comedic vehicle, so my wishes just could not be fulfilled. 

Sigh. 

What gives with this guy?  There is a very good movie that is trapped under the sludge of far too many infantile and sophomoric jokes here.  CLICK is about as schizophrenic of a film going experience as any I have had all year.  Throughout its 98 minutes we are privy to all of the nauseatingly forced and dreadfully unfunny shenanigans that Sandler and company feel the need to force on the viewing masses.  Yet, this content seems to battle for supremacy in the film with the other low key and well handled dramatic scenes (especially in the third act).   Watching the final third of this film was like being magically whisked away to a different and more fulfilling movie altogether.  By the time the credits rolled by I left the cinema with a real perplexed look on my face.  My reaction could immediately be described as simply as being bipolar.  I liked the film and I hated it. 

Sigh. 

Okay, crude statements aside, I guess I will have to remind the viewers of one thing (especially if you are a first time reader): Adam Sandler has never made a decent comedy that I have found delightful.  His film resume alone is more like a cinematic criminal record than a worthy list of accolades.  He began annoying me in the cataclysmically unfunny BILLY MADISON and further tested my patience with HAPPY GILMORE.  Even more stinkers would follow, like the shamefully moronic WEDDING SINGER and LITTLE NICKY, the latter film where he played a character that was so aggravating and insolent that he could easily beat Jar Jar Binks for cinema’s Lifetime Achievement Award for annoying audience members.  Then there was BIG DADDY, yet another film that Sandler tried to marry bathroom humor with a Capra-like sentiment.  Oh, then there was MR. DEEDS, which in itself was an actual remake of Capra’s 1936 film MR. DEEDS GOES TO TOWN.  Now with CLICK Sandler takes his Capra-hero-worship perhaps even further in the wrong direction.  I mean, if films like MR. DEEDS and BIG DADDY are to be inferred as being Capra-appreciation works, then that in itself disturbs me.  I would rather have Sandler fart in my face than watch BIG DADDY again. 

Now, having said all of that, I don’t hate Adam Sandler, I just have hated 99 per cent of his films.  I think that there is a charming person under that nihilistic and rotten façade he often plays in the movies.  Last year’s 50 FIRST DATES was not an altogether winning comedy, but it was a decent step in the right direction for Sandler.  Instead of playing a wicked person with a vile amount of hostility and a penchant for wanton violence, he portrayed a decent chap.  SPANGLISH from 2004 keenly demonstrated a Sandler that I desperately yearned to see more of.  In that James L. Brooks film he played rigidly against type.  He was a troubled father and husband that was filled with a lot of inner paranoia and confusion.  It was a surprisingly refreshing and gifted performance.  At that point, I actually though that he would travel the road that has been taken by other comedic actors (like Jim Carrey) who took on edgier and meatier parts.   

Nope.  No dice.  CLICK is sort of like a stab to my back.  I felt I bit betrayed watching the film because Sandler gets once again bogged down in the type of poo-poo, gross-out gags and contemptible laughs that he started his career with.  Sure, they are not as aplenty here as in his  earlier films, but I am starting to believe that this man will never learn.  It’s an absolute shame that a third of the film works so well.  Yet, the build up to it demonstrates Sandler’s willingness to not go too far from the well.  CLICK is a wolf wearing sheep’s clothing.  It wants to be a high concept, morality play, but three quarters of it is just your emblematic lowbrow Sandler schlock.

Sigh. 

CLICK has a very simple premise.  Sandler plays Michael Newman, a husband and father of two.  He has a job as an architect that preoccupies most of his time.  His boss, played by David (yes, that one) Hasselhoff rides him on a daily basis for deadlines and job prospects.  His kids, Ben and Samantha, also want his attention, but Michael seems to only have eyes for his work.  This frustrates his homemaker wife, Donna (played by Kate Beckinsale as one of the most undeniably hot homemaker wives in film history).  One stressful night he gets fed up while not being able to turn the TV on without activating just about every other appliance in the house.  He decides to go out a buy a universal remote. 

This takes him to a local retail store (Bed, Bath, and Beyond) and when he finds a door that says “beyond", he goes past it.  In a darkened room he meets a strange handy man named Morty (played by Christopher Walken in full-on Walkenian fashion).  Morty has just the gadget for Michael.  He gives him a special prototype remote, hot off the designer’s blueprints, but not in circulation yet.  His instructions are simple (“Just point, and click.”). He also has one other instruction:  the remote is non-returnable. 

Slowly, but surely, Michael discovers something amazing.  The remote is really a universal remote.  It controls not only his home theatre unit, but also his life and universe as a whole.  It manages his TV, DVD player, and life, both past, present, and future.  There are some respectable laughs along the journey to his discovery, like hitting the volume button to shut his dog up, to hitting the tint button to give him a tan, to further hitting the fast-forward button to skip past an argument he is having with his wife.  He can even go into the remote’s Main Menu, which is setup much like a DVD movie’s menu.  He is able to jump to different chapters of his life and is even able to see special “behind the scenes/making of” features.  In one of the film’s funniest moments, he clicks on “Making of…” and is transported to his mom and dad…well…you know. 

One thing that is kind of disheartening is how Michael begins to yield his new power not for good, but for somewhat reprehensible purposes.  Much like the Sandler roles of old, Michael here is initially presented as a real lecherous jerk.  At one point in the film he drives over his kid neighbour’s toy robot that cost a fortune.  Later, when that same kid bad mouths his own child while playing catch, Michael hits pause, lowers the kid’s mitt, hits play and the ball hits him square in the face.  The child goes down crying in pain, hoo-hoo (am I the only one that does not find hurting children funny?).

Then there is one sleazy moment where Michael –after getting some less than stellar news form his boss – hits pause to freeze him and punches him not once, not twice, but three times in the face.  He’s not done there.  He then proceeds to jump on to his desk, put his derričre within inches of the man’s face, and farts.  Hardy, Har.  There is yet another scene where he pauses a man that is making advances on his wife and kicks him in the groin three times.  There is a real cruelty to this man and an undercurrent of coldness to him that makes it hard for us to like him.  Sandler obviously holds Capra films in high regard, but c’mon.  George Bailey hated Mr. Potter, but I highly doubt that he would lower himself to kicking him the family jewels and then break wind over his gapping mouth, but I digress. 

Soon, Michael discovers that his remote is dangerous and does things he does not want it to do.  First, it starts skipping without warning (at one point he skips past sex with his wife, and when your wife is a babe like Beckinsale, you don’t want to miss that).  Even more eerie is when the remote “learns” Michael’s patterns and starts skipping vast chucks of his life.  This is precisely where the better elements (and tone) of the film starts to rebound back from its previous mediocrity.  As Michael starts jumping through time (decades, as a matter of fact), we sense the unavoidable level of dread and doom that he has placed upon himself.  Much like Ebenezer Scrooge, he sees what life is like in the future, all while not having any memories of what happened to get him there.  His dog has died, his wife re-married, his kids are grown up, and he’s a cruel SOB to his dying farther.  Michael lost everything because he failed to pay attention to what mattered most.  The film soon forgets all of the crude gags that came before it and instead becomes somewhat touching and sad.  It’s discouraging to see Michael suffer with what is to happen in his life.  He becomes a sympathetic figure.  However, all those that are familiar with this type of genre story know that it’s of no surprise that Michael gets a second chance. 

Unfortunately, by the time the film has the nerve to take a raucous tonal shift for the better, it’s all too late.  Having suffered through all of Sandler’s normal taste for comedy during the first two thirds of the film (you know, jokes about dog’s pooping and humping things, jokes about closeted gays, jokes about workplace sexual harassment, jokes about penises, jokes about grossly obese people, and…yes…jokes about human bodily functions), I felt kind of like the film was one big tease.  After baring witness to the hopeful maturation of Sandler as an actor with a few previous films, I really wanted to see CLICK be something more than a rudimentary and juvenile foray into sexist, bigoted, and fratboy-inspired jokes.  CLICK leaves an unwanted “what-if” taste in one’s mouth.  The basic premise is kind on one that guys like Charlie Kauffman and Spike Jonze would have a field day with.  Alas, it stars Sandler and is directed by Frank Coraci, who helmed THE WATERBOY and THE WEDDING SINGER. 

Sigh. 

There is nothing wrong with a sentimental fable that is bathed in melodramatic waters.  Yet, the underlining problem with CLICK is that it has a serious personality disorder.  The film is unlike a lot of other witless and soulless Adam Sandler films in the sense that it has a heart underneath its oftentimes-scatological impulses.   Yet, it is the film’s readiness to marry together so many divergent elements that does it in.  The film is shamelessly gimmicky, predictable, and lame and features yet another coarse Sandler performance that coasts in on uninspired, bawdy jokes and gags.  Yes, it does have a final act that packs a respectably poignant wallop, but the sum of a few of CLICK’S good parts does not make for an equally good whole.  For the most part, it’s just a misbegotten and mishandled appropriation of Capra films and past Christmas fables.   There is a great Sandler comedy to be had, but it’s not here folks. 

Sigh.

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