Review: ‘Click’

Good, but this was much better when it was called Scrooged.

Michael Newman (Adam Sandler) is a thirty-something New York architect trying to make partner of a firm, but his boss, Ammer (David Hasselhoff), abuses Michael’s talents by dangling the partnership over him like a carrot. The collateral damage in furthering his career is, of course, his loving wife Donna (Kate Beckinsale) and his two children; he’s never around for his family because of his work. During one fateful evening, Michael receives a universal remote control from a guy named Morty (Christopher Walken), a one-of-kind remote that, as Michael discovers, can pause or skip anything in his life. The problem is that, once the remote self-programs itself for the way Michael lives his life, there’s no going back to change anything he skips over…

Of late, Adam Sandler does his best not only to portray his funny-angry side but show a little heart as well. This served him well on 50 First Dates with Drew Barrymore, a film that could have simply made fun of a terrible condition but ended up making the most of a situation that no magic fantasy could ultimately fix, only live with. With Click, the “universal remote control” plot device might seem familiar, but the real secret of the film is that it’s a well-disguised retelling of Charles Dicken’s A Christmas Carol. In this particular case, unfortunately, this revelation works both for and against the film.

In order for this plot device to work, there are rules regarding the remote that Morty (Christopher Walken) fails to mention (other than it can program itself and it can’t be returned). An incidental yet unmentioned feature is that nobody notices Michael’s fancy new remote control; although he never goes out of his way to show it to anyone, it becomes clear that the remote is his burden alone because he chooses to use it. But the real biggie is that once you skip ahead, you can neither go back nor affect any changes in your life during that skipped time; your body goes on “autopilot,” an analogy for being out of it or daydreaming or whatever because you weren’t paying attention. Even re-watching what you missed hurts because you’re not really doing anything or interacting… you’re just there and missing everything.

Once the dramatic aspects of the plot device are revealed, the film takes a turn for the dark side, a decent into a private little Hell which becomes quite sinister but is never allowed to go too far before “Adam Sandler’s zany world” re-emerges almost as an afterthought. It’s as if the film’s editors suddenly noticed “EEK! DRAMA!” and felt compelled to impose humor (“Uh oh, this is getting pretty heavy for a Sandler film. Can we have Adam flipping off his arch-nemesis as he dies having learned a hard life lesson too late?”) Because of this, the random acts of remote control humor (changing color, language, making people wider or narrower) start to feel too much like a distraction, a weaker idea intruding on a stronger story that’s doing just fine on its own. Still, the message manages to come through in spite of it; like Dickens’ Ebenezer Scrooge, you only have so much time in your life for family and compassion before its too late.

Julie Kavner and Henry Winkler are on board as Adam’s scene-stealing parents, while David Hasselhoff and Sean Astin find themselves on the wrong end of as many embarrassing situations as needed to break up the drama. Kate Beckinsale is mostly eye candy but is hard to resist just being loving and cute; to deny her would be the same as leaving a lonely puppy unpetted. And, of course, what movie in existence would be complete without Mr. Zany himself, Christopher Walken, but who is he really?

While the over-advertised hilarity of the “universal remote” is what the trailers key in on, the angryman/everyman Sandler manages to step up and continue to win fans by mixing the fun and the sadness with a hefty dose of charm. While falling short of Bill Murray’s Scrooged (and falling far short of Bill Murray’s sad clown performance), Click is still a perfectly good date movie, couple movie, or even family movie. Still, when did it become a crime for fathers to work hard providing for their families, huh?

(a two and a half skull recommendation out of four)

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