Clicking Off Adam Sandler

  • Share
  • Read Later
Columbia Pictures

Adam Sandler stars in "Click"

You can buy the universal remote in the Beyond section of Bed, Bath and Beyond, which is down a spooky hallway in a shadowy stock room presided over by Christopher Walken's genial, flaky Mort. Michael (Adam Sandler) hopes the device will bring a little order to his chaotic life — one clicker replacing the many that presently operate the TV, the garage door, his kids' toys.

Caveat emptor, Michael. And, incidentally, caveat emptor, moviegoers. Turns out the gizmo Mort provides can fast-forward or rewind or freeze-frame life itself. This permits Michael to see how things will work out for him if he does not mend his workaholic ways, which is, putting it mildly, not very well. Yes, he gets his partnership in the architectural practice that is, when we meet him, stealing from him all the quality time he wants to spend with his wife — the divinely perky Kate Beckinsale — and their adorable offspring. But at what cost — he grows fat, gets divorced, suffers a heart attack, alienates his children and treats his parents (Henry Winkler and Julie Kavner) shabbily. Better he should have taken the kids camping as promised. Or finish their tree house as he always meant to do.

The conflict between demands of a job and the needs of a family is not exactly the most original one in the comic-dramatic lexicon. That's especially true of a movie that aspires to popular approval. As you might imagine, Michael inevitably opts for "family values." That is to say, he learns the appropriate lessons from his trip into the future. The question is, will filmmakers ever learn theirs? Conceptually, Click contains the faint possibility of a certain rueful elegance. That universal remote is a technologically (and psychologically) hip way to lead him (and us) into what amounts to a near-universal fantasy — push-button control over wayward life. Imagine it as a kind of updated version of the ghosts who enabled Scrooge to envision Christmases past, present and future and ride his time warp into to a state of grace. It also offers an efficient way for Michael to experience a morally instructive alternative reality.

But it's summertime and the living is vulgar over at the multiplex. Since Sandler is Click's producer, you have to believe that it is tailored entirely to his demands. So almost before you know it, the movie is offering the mother of all stupid — is there any other kind? — flatulence jokes. And bimbo jokes. And sexual performance jokes. And, especially, horny dog jokes. Eventually, they give up on "writing" and call in the special-effects technicians, who literally inflate Sandler to the point where you want to turn your eyes from the screen. In short, the movie is all about pleasing Sandler's core audience, comprised almost exclusively of dorky adolescent males, who are always pleased to believe that grown-ups behave as moronically as they do.

We do, of course. There's no point in denying that the regressive response is always an option when we're under pressure. It has been the basis of a lot of great comedy over the centuries. But, at least potentially, Adam Sandler is capable of better variations on that theme than he allows himself here. In the past, he's shown himself to be at least intermittently capable of a sort of addled sweetness as well those little flashes of meanness that make him recognizably human. He does a bit of innocence here and his nasty side comes out appealingly when he's defending his kids against the possession-possessed bully — his stuff is always better than their stuff — who lives next door and makes their lives miserable. But Click mostly wastes Sandler (along with Walken and Beckinsale), and the Dickens cheat — it was all (ha-ha) a dream — is not improving with the years. Right now, the best imaginable use of a universal remote is to click Adam Sandler off and give him some time to think about what might be above (and, well, yes, beyond) the bed(room) and the bath(room) gags.