I didn’t just not like Click, the new movie where Adam Sandler plays a Jim Carrey role; the movie actually made me mad. Not because it’s not funny – I expected that. And not because it’s endlessly mean-spirited – every Adam Sandler film is like that. What made me mad was that the central conceit of a guy with a remote control that controls the universe is used so poorly that I kept wanting to shout out suggestions to Sandler on how to actually use the fucking thing effectively.
In the film Sandler’s character is a workaholic whose family wants more time with him (as usual no one in the film ever discusses if they would rather have more time with him but live in a shack, but whatever). When he gets the magical remote it seems like all his problems are solved, but he soon discovers – shocker! – that maybe fast forwarding through life is the wrong way to do it. That covers the three steps all of these cynically "heart-warming" magic power movies must go through: Guy is an oaf or lout, guy gets magic powers to humorous effect, guy learns a valuable lesson. My friend Dan Epstein of Suicide Girls notes that this formula seems to have crowded the "They’re shutting down my community center/my mom’s house is being torn down and I need lots of money so I will do something wacky and funny for it" genre.
The problem is that the lesson learned makes no sense. He has this remote, and he has all these competing responsibilities – does he work over the 4th of July weekend on a project that will make him a partner at his architectural firm or does he go camping with the family. The obvious answer is to pause the world, do your work, get some sleep and restart the world and go camping. But no, he just skips the weekend. Huh? How does that even begin to seem like a reasonable solution?
The answer could be that the remote can’t pause the whole world, but the movie never bothers to go there. In fact, the movie never bothers to tell us what the remote can or can’t do – it just does stuff depending on whatever joke is being made, or whichever saccharine point is being hammered home. In fact, the remote gains new and implausible abilities as the movie goes on, including a Tivo-like function where it guesses what you want it do, and does it automatically, effectively making Sandler skip his whole life. Even then it’s never explained why he can’t just rewind his life for a do-over. In fact, that seems like one of the obvious bits of functionality for a remote like this. Then again, even the functions that are explained seem to be useless – Sandler can make his boss look very fat by adjusting the width, but only to himself. He can mute his wife’s crazy whiny friend – but only to himself. Ooh, a remote that makes you deaf.
Of course there’s not a huge amount of sense that needs to be made in a film like this, but it’s pretty clear to the audience that the functions of the remote are being made up as the writers go along so they can continue their raping of Charles Dickens. Click is like A Christmas Carol with endless product placement – I’m actually surprised this film isn’t called Bed, Bath & Beyond Presents Click (Brought To You In Part By Hostess).
Aping that over-aped story wouldn’t be so bad if the film was funny, which it is not, and it’s nt funny in an almost aggressive way. Why are all Sandler movies so mean, anyway? It seems to me that Sandler usually plays characters who would be the villain in many other comedies – semi-literate jock types whose first response to any frustration is violence. I imagine that if Sandler had ever appeared in a Marx Bros film he would have just punched Groucho in the face. Anyway, in this film Sandler jumps ahead 20 years to find his wife married to Sean Astin, a seemingly nice guy whose main drawback appears to be his choice of swim apparel – a tiny red Speedo. Anyway, Sandler finds that his wife of the future has left him because of his workaholic nature and married Astin, so he freezes Astin and kicks him in the balls. Three times. It’s a display of unearned animus that makes you cringe, and it’s the kind of thing that’s been shoehorned into the movie to appease Sandler’s mouth-breathing fanbase.
And they’ll need appeasing, since Click makes the incredible mistake of getting really serious at the end. I’m talking about old man Sandler laying in a hospital drive way in the pouring rain dying of a heart attack as the music swells and his kids run to his side serious. It’s hilarious. Quite simply this is the funniest part of the movie. Watching Sandler “act” is the kind of “I feel so embarrassed for you” comedy that makes Curb Your Enthusiasm so great. While I was cracking up at this display, I imagine the general Neanderthal member of the Adam Sandler fan club will just be deeply uncomfortable and unsure of whether Sandler fell down to be funny or sad.
It should be noted, for the sake of fairness, that the film has some bright spots. David Hasselhoff is often funny as Sandler’s awful and sexually harassing boss. Rachel Dratch appears just long enough to make me deeply uncomfortable. Henry Winkler is actually sweet as Sandler’s dad, even when saddled with a de-aging make up that makes him look embalmed. Kate Beckinsale is beautiful, and no matter how many jokes get made about how she wouldn’t marry a guy like Sandler, you never forget that she wouldn’t marry a guy like Sandler.
The big question mark is Christopher Walken. He does his Creepy Walken schtick to perfection here, but at this point I’m bored with it. From the moment you realize he’s going to be the guy who gives Sandler the remote, you know not just every thing he’s going to do, but every aspect of his character arc. Walken was fun in roles like this once upon a time because it was unexpected. Now it’s beyond expected, it’s just cliché. Still, he’s often enjoyable in the role.
For the record, I understand the film’s underlying metaphor – perhaps better than the writers or the director, Frank Coraci, whose name is uncomfortably close to my own, do themselves. When Sandler skips ahead, his body goes through the motions; he’s on “auto pilot.” We’re supposed to see that he’s not there for his family and that he is literally missing out on the best years of their lives. The problem is that the remote is the wrong device for this metaphor. Something better would have been a cheat code in a game, or to just drop the whole lame workaholic thing in the first place and just have fun with a powerful remote.
As Click dragged on to its finish (and if you can’t figure out the way this movie will end during the scene when Sandler visits the Bed, Bath & Beyond, even before he gets the remote, I have a shiny object for you to play with), I found my trigger finger getting itchy. All I wanted was a magical remote control of my own so I could skip past seeing this unfunny and monotonous piece of crap.