Just 10 years after taking a beating from Bob Barker, there’s Adam Sandler, playing a character crawling helplessly in the rain, dramatically calling a message to his adult son who can’t hear him.
It really doesn’t seem like Happy Gilmore was all that long ago. But oh, how time cosmically zooms by for both Sandler and his harried architect in Click — a sincere, but safe, mash-up of Sandler’s earlier man-child physicality and his more recent aspirations to serious acting.
There are hump-happy dogs, precocious-child references to crack and a family named O’Doyle to still bear the brunt of jokes (see Billy Madison), but a late scene with Sandler and Henry Winkler, as his father, is an inarguably moving moment. It’s the sort of film that will appeal to the kid-and-a-wife crowd that used to be his frat-boy fanbase, a Twilight Zone premise with comic sensibilities.
Sandler, both breezy and serious, stars as Michael, a frazzled family man blessed, and cursed, with a literally universal remote given to him by the mysterious, Doc Brown-like Morty (Christopher Walken, again having fun with his clipped-speech comic kookiness).
Michael speeds up fights with his wife (Kate Beckinsale), erases the tedium of traffic, rewinds to specific moments of his past or goes on autopilot entirely for undesirable portions of life, like sickness. Things go haywire when the “MeVo” (as Morty puts it) starts self-programming in accordance with what it thinks are Michael’s preferences, obliterating whole chunks of existence.
The movie neither folds its narrative in on itself nor stabs away with a whiskbroom at dusty corners of consciousness like a Charlie Kaufman riff would. It’s a Sandler-crew job all the way — meaning you’ll have to take inspired moments from bit players (Jennifer Coolidge, Terry Crews, David Hasselhoff, Rachel Dratch) along with bland direction from Frank Coraci (The Waterboy). (For this film, throw in a ludicrously cheap view of the future from production designer Perry Andelin Blake.) More outside perspectives might have helped the movie be a little bit braver.
But at least it’s not insultingly infantile — like the similarly plotted Bruce Almighty, with which it shares screenwriters — and makes interesting uses of its high-concept idea. “Dark” and “surreal” aren’t really ideas easily associated with Sandler, and while it’s no bummer or mind-bender, it might as well be the Requiem for a Dream of his rowdy résumé.
Click flirts with the worst kind of ending, but recovers by remembering the temptations of the remote control and the script’s undertones of today’s technology fetish. George Bailey never would have farted in Mr. Potter’s face, so it’s clearly no wonderful life, but a decent one.