Click (United States, 2006)
We know from experience that Adam Sandler has a fondness for Frank Capra. After all, is there anything odder than watching Sandler channel Gary Cooper in a remake of Mr. Deeds (Goes to Town)? Actually, there is. It's watching Sandler channel Jimmy Stewart in Click, a film that owes more than a little to It's a Wonderful Life. In fact, while it's more of an indirect remake of Dickens' A Christmas Carol, the Capra-esque overtones are there. To round things out, Sandler throws in a little Rip Van Winkle and nod to Harry Chapin's "Cat's in the Cradle." However, while Mr. Deeds didn't work, Click (perhaps surprisingly) does. It's because Sandler doesn't throw out the drama in a quest for laughs. There are times when the comedian falls back on his typical shtick, but the film doesn't shy away from the darkness inherent in this kind of story, and it has a heart. Sandler is Scrooge in the last act of A Christmas Carol and George Bailey in the last act of It's a Wonderful Life, and he does justice to those who have preceded him down this path.
Even though the film has been directed by "Sandler vet" Frank Coraci (The Waterboy, The Wedding Singer), the film may cause disappointment amongst the die-hard rank-and-file even as it presents a more appealing Sandler to mainstream audiences. The nastiness and vulgarity that have long been associated with Sandler's comedy are largely missing in action, excepting a few scenes. Then again, Sandler has been moving away from this image over the last few years, using Jim Carrey's career as a template. He's hoping his fans will grow with him; reaction to Click may go a long way to answering whether they will.
At least on the surface, movies don't get more high concept than Click: a man obtains a "universal" remote controller that allows him to manage not only the TV but his entire life. He can fast-forward and rewind his reality, skipping unpleasant things like busywork and arguments with his spouse while re-living pleasant times, like his first date with the woman he would marry. But the remote is dangerous, and he starts using it as a substitute for living through bad times. Worse still, it's an intelligent remote and, after it learns his patterns, it fast forwards through large chunks of his life. By the end, he has learned wisdom, but at a terrible price. However, as in A Christmas Carol and It's a Wonderful Life, he is given a second chance.
The man in question is Michael Newman (Sandler), a hard working architect who has little time for his loving wife, Donna (Kate Beckinsale) and his two kids, Ben and Samantha. He's too busy working for his arrogant, preening boss, Ammer (David Hasselhoff). One night, after discovering that he can't turn on the TV without operating the ceiling fan or garage door, Michael heads out in search of a universal remote. The only store still open is Bad Bath and Beyond. In the "Beyond" part of the store, he encounters mad scientist Morty (Christopher Walken), who gives Michael the ultimate universal remote, but with a caveat: he cannot return it.
Click makes ample use of the fast-forward button, and occasional use of the pause and rewind buttons. Yet there's a lot of potential left untapped. Consider, for example, the DVD-like menu for Michael's life which features a commentary by James Earl Jones and other special features. These function as punchlines to a couple of gags, but not much more. One has to wonder what Spike Jonze and Charlie Kaufman could have developed from this premise. But we have to work with what he have, not what might have been.
The film features some jarring tonal transitions as it juxtaposes Sandler's trademark crude humor with pathos. Michael's boss, his wife's brassy best friend (Jennifer Coolidge), and the unappealing kid next-door (Cameron Monaghan) receive the Sandler treatment. Yes, there is a fart joke - and it's a pretty long and loud one. And the family dog humps a stuffed animal. Eventually, however, the jokes become more widely spaced and low-key as the drama takes over. We start to feel for Michael and the growing tragedy of his life. He's not a bad guy - just someone who has gotten caught up in the rat race and lost sight of his priorities. His "farewell" to his father (Henry Winkler) is accomplished with Scrooge-like precision. It's sad to watch him mourn everything he has lost. If not for the reboot that we know is coming, Click would have been heartbreaking.
I can't let the review pass without making mention of the aging and de-aging affects. Because the movie spans a long time period, characters are forced to look older and younger than the actors who play them. The old-age makeup is what we have come to expect - not terribly realistic, but acceptable. However, when it comes to the CGI used to return Henry Winkler and Julie Kavner (as Michael's parents) to their youth, the filmmakers should have taken lessons from the effects crew for X-Men 3. In Click, it looks awful - wax-like and artificial. It's a little thing, but sometimes it's the little things that linger.
While Sandler has more room to grow before he's considered for an Oscar nomination, he has moved beyond the angry-boy-in-a-man's-body phase. He's comfortable in this role, which might not have been true five years ago. Kate Beckinsale, despite being underused, is adorable, although I sort of miss the skintight leather garments. David Hasselhoff continues his recent trend of poking fun at himself at every turn. Rarely has anyone gotten more mileage from self-parody. Christopher Walken is Christopher Walken, although he tones down the weirdness a little. Finally, there's Sean Astin in a speedo - one of those moments I wish I hadn't been subjected to.
Click is flawed but, on balance, it works. It accomplishes what it sets out to do: tell an occasionally amusing, occasionally affecting drama about how adults often lose sight of what matters. There's no subtlety in the approach, but there wasn't any in either A Christmas Carol or It's a Wonderful Life, either. There's more to the film than meets the eye from the commercials and trailers, but the question lingers for Sandler's fans (those who keep his movies at the top of the box office): Is that a good thing or not? For me, there's no question it's the former.
Click (United States, 2006)
Cast: Adam Sandler, Kate Beckinsale, Christopher Walken, David Hasselhoff, Henry Winkler, Julie Kavner, Sean Astin, Cameron Monaghan, Jennifer Coolidge
Screenplay: Steve Koren & Mark O'Keefe
Cinematography: Dean Semler
Music: Rupert Gregson-Williams
U.S. Distributor: Columbia Pictures