Call 2006 the summer of the falsely marketed dramedy. Three weeks after "The Break-Up
" was released, advertised as a fluffy comedy but much darker and more realistic in its story about the end of a relationship, along comes "Click." If possible, the expanse between the tone of the trailer and the actual movie is even greater than "The Break-Up
." Those viewers expecting a wacky, free-for-all Adam Sandler lark will get much more than they bargained for when they end up either needing a tissue to wipe the tears away or rolling their eyes at the sentimental manipulation at work.
As a serious drama, one that deals with mortality, redemption and the regrets that arise from a person looking back on their life, "Click" emotionally resounds even when the schmaltz level is cranked up. What it doesn't succeed at is the insistence of director Frank Coraci (1998's "The Waterboy
") and writers Steve Koren and Mark O'Keefe (2003's "Bruce Almighty
") to throw in broad comedic strokes and an overall frivolous first hour that uneasily clashes with the more ruminative second half. Also ruinous to the picture's outcome is a crucial early scene that so sloppily telegraphs what is really happening from that point on that it somewhat cheapens the proceedings.
Michael Newman (Adam Sandler) is a harried husband and father whose demanding job at an architectural firm leaves him with scant time to spend with his family. Stressed out by his strained relationship with wife Donna (Kate Beckinsale) and her feelings that he is missing important parts of 7-year-old son Ben (Joseph Castanon) and 5-year-old daughter Samantha's (Tatum McCann) lives, Michael escapes into the night to relieve all the pressure. Further fed up by not being able to use the countless remote controls in the house, his search for a universal remote leads him to a back room at Bed, Bath & Beyond (the placard on the door reads "Way Beyond") lorded over by the mysterious Morty (Christopher Walken).
The remote Michael is ultimately given for free turns out to have far more power than expected, allowing him to rewind, fast-forward, pause, and even mute his life when things get tough. What seems like a godsend at first soon becomes a nightmare, with the remote gaining a mind of its own and fast-forwarding significant chunks of time that Michael fears he may never be able to get back. Because of it, he has no choice but to watch as his family falls apart and his entire existence slips away from him.
Borrowing liberally from "It's a Wonderful Life" and "A Christmas Carol," "Click" is a life-affirming fable about the things that matter most and the importance to value every moment and relationship as if it was the last. What those two classics didn't have was rampant toilet and scatological humor. "Click" does, and yet hasn't one big laugh to show for it. From dogs humping stuffed toys, to giant farts in the face, to physical violence and people's sexual identities set up as punchlines, the film plays to the lowest-common-denominator for so long that it can never quite redeem itself when the tone suddenly dims and turns into a tearjerker. The only clever touch is the way Michael's life is turned into a DVD via the remote, complete with special features, chapter selections and a commentary track provided by James Earl Jones.
To be fair, the last thirty minutes is worlds above what has come before in terms of quality. The dramatic material, as calculating as it is, finds a surprising level of truth that hits close to home. Coincidentally, the comic stylings of Adam Sandler (2005's "The Longest Yard
") aren't nearly as impressive as his earnest work here. For maybe the first time, there isn't a hint of a wink or mugging expression on the actor's face when he goes for the seriousness of the situation his character is faced with. Learning of the death of a loved one, losing his marriage, having to come to terms with his own metamorphosis into a lonely aging man and with little to show for his life's workthere are key scenes such as these in the third act that are rendered with added calamitous poignancy by Sandler's believable, beautifully modulated performance. For a while, the film becomes almost too depressing. There is a purpose to this grim undercurrent, but the lowbrow slapstick of the earlier sections don't earn it. When the ending arrives, its contrived and predictable nature has all along been a foregone conclusion to anyone paying attention.
The main supporting performancesKate Beckinsale (2006's "Underworld: Evolution
") as long-suffering wife Donna; Henry Winkler (2003's "Holes
") and Julie Kavner (TV's "The Simpsons") as Michael's neglected parents; Christopher Walken (2005's "Wedding Crashers
") as the enigmatic, God-like Mortyare serviceable, but their roles remain decidedly one-note. Minor parts by such undernourished talents as Jennifer Coolidge (2006's "American Dreamz
"), as Donna's annoying friend Janine, and Rachel Dratch (2003's "Down with Love
"), as Michael's assistant Alice, are squandered. Meanwhile, potentially sweet scenes, such as a flashback to Michael and Donna's first kiss while The Cranberries' "Linger" plays on the soundtrack, are lessened by cheap gags being tagged on the end.
"Click" isn't without heartthe story's moral is a valuable one, and Michael's journey in finding the better man inside of himself proves sporadically effectivebut it is without a much-needed compass. The constant war between what the film really is and what it wants to be in order to satisfy Adam Sandler's young male demographic finally marks the project's self-destruction. When the dust settles, "Click" is but a well-meaning existential fantasy that would have vastly benefited had it been made in a lower key and with a clearer vision.