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Click   D

Columbia Pictures / Revolution Studios

Year Released: 2006
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Director: Frank Coraci
Writers: Steve Koren, Mark O'Keefe
Cast: Adam Sandler, Kate Beckinsale, Christopher Walken, David Hasselhoff, Henry Winkler, Julie Kavner, Sean Astin.

Review by Rob Vaux

An open letter to Adam Sandler, from his critics:

Hey there, Adam. I don't suppose there's any point in mincing words. We don't like your work and you, presumably, don't like ours. The pattern of antagonism was established some time ago, and we've all more or less accepted it as part of our lives. So we're gonna bash Click around like a cheap piñata now, because seriously, it blows dead bunnies. And the kids will go see it anyway, because they haven't picked up on the fact that your stale pee-pee jokes were old hat about the time the pyramids went up. And if perchance our harsh words should ever sting you, you can always massage the wound by retreating to your Money Room, where burly servants will gently shower you with a snowstorm of hundred-dollar bills fresh from the weekend's grosses. So will it be until your next movie shows up and the whole cycle repeats itself. Sunrise, sunset. To everything a season.

But amid your annual box-office victory lap, don't presume to forget your place in this pattern. You're a public spectacle, not a real actor. You purvey populist frat-boy crap, not genuine human truths. Never think otherwise without some serious talent in your corner, and never try to turn one of your patented "it's funny to watch me torment other people" cash grabs into an attempt at a legitimate message. Because then, my friend, you're in our world. And without P.T. Anderson watching your back, we will shiv you in the dark and leave your carcass for the hyenas. Don't think that we won't.

With Click, you are definitely trying to hustle a Very Important Message past us. Oh, it starts out with humbler goals: barely developed high-concept gimmickry facilitating the usual cocktail of schoolyard bullying that passes for humor in your circle. Your character, Michael Newman, is yet another overworked dad with no time for his kids. He labors long hours under an asinine boss (David Hasselhoff), while placating the wee ones with broken promises at home and studiously ignoring his smoking hot wife (Kate Beckinsale) whose only apparent purpose is to look put-upon and wander around in skimpy nighties. (Curse you, Happy Madison! You know my weakness!) Then a chance encounter with a crazed scientist (Christopher Walken) at the Bed, Bath and Beyond puts Le Grand MacGuffin into your hands -- specifically, a remote control that can affect real life just like it affects the TV. And we're off on a cavalcade of uninspired clicker-based sight gags tediously spun out by you and director Frank Coraci. Dog barking too loud? Just hit the mute button and listen to the wondrous silence! Neighbor being an ass? Push "pause" and pull his pants down in front of a gawking crowd!

The sad thing is that the notion has the potential for much stronger satire: perhaps a send-up of technology's capacity to isolate us. But only the most optimistic audiences would think Click capable of such sophistication. Not when it can get a cheap laugh by kicking someone in the nuts. Newman finds himself skipping past the bad parts of his life in hopes of reaching that promotion which will presumably give him the money and freedom to devote to his kids. The premise is delivered with thudding tactlessness, interspersed with lazy riffs on the magic-remote concept that run out of gas about two minutes in. Ironically enough, Newman's central dilemma -- that he doesn't have enough time for his family -- could be easily solved with the device. Hit pause, finish work, push play, and then spend the rest of the evening building that tree fort with the children. It's a ludicrously simple idea that would have cleared up the film's central tension in an instant. Naturally, Click ignores it in the vain hope that no one will notice.

In its place, Adam, is the same style of 6th-grade humor you've trundled out so many times before. Once again, you populate your film with a bunch of simpering jerks whose sole purpose is to let your character deliver a sadistic variety of quasi-comedic comeuppances. After which, of course, he can profess to love his family in order to prove he's a nice guy instead of the borderline sociopath your "humor" makes him out to be. Your previous films revel in the same material: it's all humping dogs and farts in the face, and it's crude and infantile, but that's your thing, and clearly somebody out there likes it (who and why are questions for another time). So we won't repeat ourselves by pointing out yet again how truly hateful and dehumanizing your chosen shtick can be. Those who buy the ticket know what they're in for.

But midway through, as the threadbare gimmick sputters on fumes and your character runs out of ways to make the neighbor's kid cry, something else happens. The remote starts skipping past large segments of Newman's life, throwing the sweet out with the sour and slowly alienating him from those he cares about. To his horror, he finds he can't stop shuttling through his life -- and that's when Click tries to morph you into Jimmy Stewart. You mug your way through an appalling phalanx of would-be sentiment, your facade cracking under shockingly amateur efforts to convey sadness, grief, and regret. The narcissism it reveals is revolting -- the sense that you could suddenly turn a one-note standup routine like Newman into a plausible human being just by choking up a little -- and beneath it, the sophomoric rakishness to which you normally aspire vanishes beneath poorly executed Hallmark schmaltz. Frankly, we'd prefer straight-up offensiveness to such tactless fumbles at our heartstrings. It's less grating on the nerves.

The motivation behind that decision reveals everything that's wrong with Click, and with your persona in general. Simply put, you want to have your cake and eat it too. You've devised a scenario that might hold water, but are too lazy to properly develop it. You show us all manner of bad behavior, then try to wipe it away by pretending to be a sweetheart. You indulge in locker-room jokes that most people tire of by the time they're old enough to vote, then try to woo us back with embarrassingly melodramatic theatrics. Anderson got blood from that stone once, but he's nowhere to be seen here. And while your lowbrow antics may help the bottom line, they're an active liability when you try to convey basic human dignity. The first half of Click is merely unfunny; the second is the most shameless appeal to sentiment since The Day the Clown Cried. Tell your puke jokes if they make you happy, but don't ask us to care when you turn on a dime and try to offer something meatier. We're not buying it for a minute.

Review published 06.23.2006.

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