Letter From The Editor - Issue 59 - October 2017

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Writing Fantasy

  
At The Picture Show
June 2006

New Sandler effort can't quite 'Click'

Admirable intent aside, Sandler's newest vehicle goes for more substance, but gets bogged down in silliness

Click
Sony Pictures
Director: Frank Coraci
Screenplay: Steve Koren and Mark O'Keefe
Starring: Adam Sandler, Kate Beckinsale, Christopher Walken, David Hasselhoff, Henry Winkler, Julie Kavner and Sean Astin
Rated PG-13 / 1 hour, 38 minutes
Opened June 23, 2006
(out of four)

Adam Sandler has some decisions to make. He has moved past the sophomoric, idiotic comedies that made him a movie star. He's reached the point where he's grown up a bit and is trying to do more sophisticated work. I admire the attempt. Unfortunately, however, he insists on working with the same people responsible for his old comedies - and maybe they're not ready to grow up just yet. Loyalty is great and all, but now it's turning into a handicap.

The thing is, I really want this to work. It looks promising from time to time, with the great Punch-Drunk Love and James L. Brooks' uneven but admirable Spanglish. But since then, we've had misfires like The Longest Yard - which fell well short of the poignance of the original, for which it clearly strived - and, now, Click, a film full of good ideas but constantly held back by amateur filmmaking and pandering to the 12-year-old boy demographic. And so it begs the question: Does Adam Sandler want to be taken seriously, or not? Because he's giving us mixed signals here.

Click - about an overworked man, Michael Newman (Sandler), who gets his hands on a "universal" remote that allows him to control his entire life - goes for the kind of thematic depth of the classic It's a Wonderful Life, yet its penchant for cheap laughs repeatedly undermines that. Something tells me that if George Bailey had a universal remote, he wouldn't use it to jump on his boss's desk and fart in his face for 30 seconds. Just a hunch.

This film is the worst kind of tease - it has tons of potential and completely wastes it. It barrages us with jokes of the penis, fart and fat varieties, and then tries to turn around and give us a serious message. Perhaps this is no surprise - the director, Frank Coraci, is the same guy who helmed The Waterboy and The Wedding Singer. This is what I was talking about - why would Sandler, or the studio, choose Coraci of all people to handle this material? He's clearly out of his element.

In more modern terms, Click is similar to other It's a Wonderful Life updates such as The Family Man or Bruce Almighty. Both of those are better movies because they actually have conviction as to what kind of movies they are. Click, on the other hand, wants to be two very different things, which, unsurprisingly, are completely at odds in the finished product.

Sandler's misguided loyalty extends further than just his director. He, of course, has to give his good buddy Rob Schneider a cameo, this time as an unfunny Arab caricature. Please, Adam, you've gotta listen to me: The less Rob Schneider, the better.

Like the protagonists in The Family Man and Bruce Almighty, Michael is an ambitious man. He's an architect at an upper-crust corporate firm, and he's trying to impress his boss, the cheerfully slimy Ammer (David Hasselhoff), in hopes of making partner. He works himself half to death, spending long hours at the office and even longer ones working at home in his basement, which cuts well into his time with his family - wife Donna (Kate Beckinsale) and his two kids, Ben and Samantha. So it's by a stroke of fate that he meets Morty (Christopher Walken), an eccentric inventor who works in the "beyond" section of Bed, Bath and Beyond and who provides Michael with a universal remote.

It doesn't take long for Michael to discover his new toy's supernatural capabilities - and it doesn't take long for him to take full advantage of it. He can fast-forward through arguments - and sex - with his wife, turn his friends and family on mute, turn his boss's speech into Spanish, and even utilize a picture-in-picture option (one of the film's more clever elements). But of course, his gift turns out to be a curse. The remote memorizes his tendencies and behaves accordingly, and eventually, Michael is practically fast-forwarding through his entire life and he has to learn a Very Important Lesson about priorities. Problem is, we figure things out way before Michael does. How did such an idiot ever get so successful?

We see his family grow up and undergo countless changes, while Morty keeps on showing up again and again to give Michael counsel. Walken is, as always, priceless in his supporting role. There is no one better at making the most of all his roles. The cadences of his speech, the way he emphasizes the wrong syllables, the way he delivers his lines in his patented deadpan style, make Walken's character one of the film's most enjoyable aspects. Walken can make any bad movie a little bit better.

The other characters don't add as much. Even Sandler seems to be the wrong man for the job (though obviously the film was made and marketed as a Sandler vehicle, so the point is moot). And Kate Beckinsale...well, Kate Beckinsale is very beautiful.

I cannot emphasize this enough. I mean, come on.

But, like many movies of this kind, the wife character she is provided with doesn't give her much to do.

Most of the film provides Sandler with lots to do. It's full of comic set-ups, which give the opportunity to do such things as dress up in a fat suit and, as I said, fart in his boss's face. Click's credited writers, Steve Koren and Mark O'Keefe, have previously worked on quality material like Seinfeld, NewsRadio and Bruce Almighty. But you get the feeling that Sandler, and/or the studio that wanted to please his base, had a major influence on the script to make it more, well, Sandler-esque.

That said, there are still good ideas here. Lots of them. The concept of the plot opens up tons of possibilities. The plot and the themes should be able to blend perfectly. But the filmmakers simply don't know how to marry the comedy and the drama. They don't know how to handle the material that should be emotionally moving. In other words, for all its serious ambition, Click doesn't earn it.

Read more by Chris Bellamy


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