Remotely Entertaining

Washington City Paper | June 30, 2006
The word “hell” has long been associated with watching a movie starring Adam Sandler. OK, not every movie starring Adam Sandler, but the Little Nickys have a way of making you forget all about the Punch-Drunk Loves. With Click, it seems as if we’ll be getting more of the same: weak premise, weaker writing, and Sandler’s sophomoric jackassery.

Thing is, sometimes a little sophomoric jackassery works. That’s not to say Click is a good movie. But parts of it are unexpectedly entertaining and, if you’re a perennial It’s a Wonderful Life weeper and prepared to forgive some heavy-handedness, even touching. The setup is typical Hollywood: Michael (Sandler) is a successful architect working overtime to make partner. Of course, that means he’s neglecting his fabulous personal life, which includes Donna (Kate Beckinsale), his gorgeous wife, and Samantha and Ben (Tatum McCann and Joseph Castanon), his adorable little kids. One night, tired of having trouble simply trying to turn on the TV, fer cryin’ out loud, Michael inexplicably drives past a Best Buy to shop for a universal remote at Bed Bath & Beyond.

Aha, that’s why scripters Steve Koren and Mark O’Keefe bend the rules of consumer logic: Michael finds the store’s Beyond section, a storage room/lab at the end of a long hallway, itself hidden behind a decidedly un-chain-store-looking door. Mad scientist Morty (Christopher Walken) appears to offer Michael what he’s looking for, but with the twist it’s not a universal remote—it’s a remote to control the universe! So now Michael can mute his dog, fast-forward through fights with Donna and dinners with his parents (Henry Winkler and Julie Kavner), revisit his childhood, and pause infuriating moments so he can, oh, slap the shit out of his smug boss (David Hasselhoff). It’s all dandy until, TiVo-like, the remote builds up a memory and begins to FF automatically through events it thinks Michael will want to skip. Koren and O’Keefe, who last worked together on the Jim Carrey vehicle Bruce Almighty, seem to have something of a line in mixing low comedy and highfalutin cosmology.

Like several Sandler characters of the recent past, Michael isn’t manic or obnoxious but a believable workaholic who’s so focused on career goals that he puts off his family just this once, just this once again, and he swears this time will be the last. Yeah, the comedy tends toward running gags about a dog humping a stuffed duck and Michael taunting the obnoxious kid next door. (“My father’s stereo is a Bose!” “Your father’s stereo blows? That’s too bad!”) But the film takes a tight swerve toward drama as the characters age (ignore the hideously orange mask Winkler appears to be wearing in a young-dad flashback) and tragedies unfold and lessons are learned.

Indeed, the really funny thing about this movie is, magic remote excepted, how surprisingly successful it is in reflecting the ups and downs of everyday life. As cosmic jokes go, Click probably isn’t as heavenly as Koren and O’Keefe imagined it. But it isn’t as hellish as you imagined it, either.

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