|Theatrical Movie Reviews Theatrical|
|Written by Bill Warren|
|Friday, 23 June 2006|
About halfway through “Click,” just about the point where you’re trying to decide if this is Adam Sandler’s “A Christmas Carol” or Adam Sandler’s “Bruce Almighty,” you realize that it’s just about here that future DVD viewers of this will be reaching for their remotes faster than Sandler reaches for his truly universal remote in the movie itself. “Click” begins well and has some virtues throughout, but both the middle and the painfully sentimental and wearily prolonged ending weaken the pleasure the film occasionally brings.
Sandler is nice-guy architect Michael Newman, married to cute and sexy Donna (Kate Beckinsale), and father to seven-year-old Ben (Joseph Castanon) and somewhat younger Samantha (Tatum McCann). He’s overworked, run into the ground by his airily dictatorial and self-obsessed boss Ammer (a surprisingly good David Hasselhoff). Because his job requires him to put in long hours both at the office and at home, Michael has never finished the barely-begun tree house in the back yard, and has to cancel a long-planned family July 4th vacation.
Michael has never been able to sort out his family’s many remote controls—TV, garage door, toy cars, etc.—and one frustrating night, he runs out of patience and goes out to buy one of these universal remotes he’s heard about. He makes a visit to Bed, Bath & Beyond (very heavily plugged, as are Twinkies) and drifts off for a moment on a bed display. But then he notices a door labeled “Beyond” and inside, “Way Beyond.” When you’re way beyond the normal world, you can expect to run into Christopher Walken.
And that’s who Michael does encounter, in a vast warehouse full of unlabeled boxes. Walken is Morty, a most accommodating, if bizarre, clerk who hands Michael a universal remote control. “A guy needs a break every once in a while,” the affable Morty says. The remote is a slick-looking device, prominently featured in the ads for the movie.
Soon, Michael finds this is a TRULY universal remote: it doesn’t control the TV, but it does control aspects of Michael’s life. He can mute his dog Sundance (coincidentally, the name of our late dog), put his complaining wife on fast-forward, halt everything momentarily, slow down buxom female joggers, even replay scenes of his past (narrated by James Earl Jones). Morty magically appears from time to time to offer advice and to explain how the remote works. When Michael fast-forwards through his own life, what others see is a Michael running on automatic while the real Michael just skips forward in time.
Of course, this is material for a lot of jokes, some funny, some downright cruel (he injures a bratty boy next door), some gross and crude (as when he farts at length and loudly in the face of his boss, whom he’s put on pause). The variations on a theme soon play themselves out dramatically, at which point the movie shifts into the stuff it’s “really” about: the universal remote came into existence to teach Michael much-needed Life Lessons.
Yes, “Click” is determined to be Good For You. The problem is that once you know this is what’s going on, the script by Steve Koren and Mark O’Keefe runs almost completely out of forward momentum. We know exactly where the film is going, without any question, but we still have to sit through increasingly sentimental and extended scenes to get to the preordained ending.
The fun drains out of “Click.” Boredom sets in; watches are glanced at—and those who’ll be watching it at home will reach for the fast-forward button. The story leaps forward in time, but the future we see is an endless vista of futuristic stereotypes; production designer Perry Andelin Blake seems to have thrown up his hands and just stuck in the usual jump suits, giant glass-and-metal buildings, cars that look like fish, then added one Segway. This deficit of creativity is visually dead, almost painfully routine.
Things aren’t helped by director Frank Coraci, a Sandler buddy since high school days. He previously directed the good Sandler movie “The Wedding Singer” and the godawful Singer movie “The Waterboy.” Here, he tosses in the usual scatological gags, the usual kids talking dirty, and a dog that repeatedly and endlessly humps a big stuffed toy. Neither he nor Sandler seem interested in wit—or perhaps are merely incapable of it. Coraci also directed the elephantine Jackie Chan flop, “Around the World in 80 Days.”
The movie is bookended by stereotyped architectural clients: the first group are grossly caricatured Arabs, the last are Japanese, not quite so grotesque, but we’re still invited to laugh at them because they ARE Japanese. “Insensitive” doesn’t begin to describe these appalling stereotypes. Michael’s parents, played quite well by Julie Kavner and Sandler regular Henry Winkler, are also clichéd: mom is warm-hearted and too loving, dad is a funny middle-aged then elderly coot whose only trait seems to be to endlessly repeat the same sleight-of-hand trick.
Christopher Walken is a breath of weird air whenever he turns up, but that isn’t often enough, and he rarely says anything new. There are a couple of cameos—James Earl Jones provides that voice, Samuel L. Jackson is seen bopping happily in a convertible, and I suspect one of the Arabs was Rob Schneider.
Kate Beckinsale is attractive and interesting as Michael’s long-suffering wife. She’s cute and believable kittenish at times, light-years away from those increasingly terrible “Underworld” movies, and much more like the talented actress she was in “Cold Comfort Farm” and “The Aviator.” But her character is very different from the ones she played in those films, and she’s one of the strongest virtues of “Click.”
The movie is strangely garish; the colors are over-intense, the sets cluttered and unattractive. Dean Semler is an occasionally effective cinematographer—and shot the similar “Bruce Almighty”—but he has to battle the clumsy look of the film all the way. He’s originally from Australia, where he shot “The Road Warrior.”
The entire project feels like someone had the idea of a universal remote control, and then felt compelled to come up with a Jim Carrey-like Life Lessons plot to support it. But the idea isn’t all that original in the first place; similar gadgets have turned up in science fiction and fantasy stories for decades, including on the original “Twilight Zone.”
Before it runs out of steam and into the retarding treacle of Life Lessons, “Click” is pretty funny, if occasionally much too crude. Sandler isn’t as appealing a lead as Jim Carrey was in his fantasies (in addition to “Bruce Almighty,” there was “Liar Liar”); it’s off-putting when to deal with the brat next door, he sinks to the brat’s level instead of rising above it. But the universal remote does provide some fun—for a while.