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Sandler’s latest mostly Clicks

by Glen Baity

Click seems bound for success for a few reasons. The first is that the summer so far has been a little thin, and it’s at least better than the third X-Men. The second and (I like to think) most important is that it’s not a bad movie on its own merit, though not great by any stretch. The third and final argument is that it speaks to what could be the largest demographic of any film in the annals of cinema: people who just don’t have enough time. Or, more succinctly, ‘“Americans.’”

Wouldn’t it be great, the film asks, if you just had a remote control that could pause long enough for you to tweak your present situation just a touch? Or if said remote could fast-forward you through the hard work and voluminous irritations of everyday life, letting you instantly reap the rewards? Think of it: no more Mondays! No more traffic! No more homework!

Michael Newman finds just such a remote in the out-of-the-way ‘“Beyond’” section of Bed, Bath and Beyond. Since it is virtually impossible for you to have avoided seeing at least one preview for this media-saturation event, I’ll skip the rest of the exposition. Suffice it to say, it’s a ridiculous concept, but admittedly no more so than the one that drove last week’s The Lake House, and I let that one go easily enough.

When Michael clicks ‘fast-forward,’ we learn, his magical remote allows his conscious mind to skip to the desired point, but his body remains in the moment, on ‘auto-pilot.’ Because Michael isn’t blessed with considerable foresight, marital problems and child neglect ensue, though his career as an architect advances apace.

The remote turns Michael’s life into what is essentially a DVD, complete with commentary (by James Earl Jones, natch) and making-of featurette. It also turns the film into a modern-day Aesop’s Fable, where the click-happy hero learns the hard way that the bad parts of life ‘— jerk bosses, interminable family obligations, spousal nagging ‘— are tied up with the good parts.

It’s a very easy, obvious point to make, which doesn’t stop Click from continually congratulating itself on its own acumen. When the remote takes on a life of its own, Michael struggles to stay in the moment and salvage the wreckage that results from his best-laid plans. The consequence is a film that is relentlessly preachy ‘— virtually every line of the first half relates to how busy Michael always is, and every line in the second half relates to how much he’s changed.

It’s also shamelessly manipulative, trotting Michael’s broken relationships and empty ambitions before the film’s audience like a stern-but-fair nanny.

Click is It’s a Wonderful Life re-imagined with all the subtlety of an e-mail forward, but it would be dishonest of me to say I didn’t enjoy it, for the most part. The supporting cast is solid, featuring Christopher Walken (channeling Back to the Future-era Christopher Lloyd), a charming Kate Beckinsdale, and a loopy-as-ever Jennifer Coolidge. Even David Hassellhoff scores a few laughs as Michael’s oily, oafish boss. And Sandler’s trademark screwball comedy, which is generally hit-or-miss, works in this film, because even if it often seems out of place, it helps break the tension in what becomes a surprisingly dark story.

As time is bumped ever forward, Michael becomes a fat old man, sees his wife estranged and witnesses the long-dashed expectations of his loved ones, most of whom move on without him to at least a small degree. Unlike George Bailey, however, most of the people in Michael’s life seem happy enough with the state of things when the film makes it to the 2020s. The great tragedy of the film is that Michael has missed out on his own life, and it’s here that I have to part ways with the film’s methodology (warning: minor spoilers ahead).

What I found distasteful about Click is the whole ‘“Your Life as Major Motion Picture’” ethos that drives it. Maybe I’m not alone in thinking the world needs fewer people walking around imagining themselves as the star of their own little movie. Michael learns that he has become largely inessential to his loved ones’ happiness, and the requisite presto-change-o ending allows him to go back and reinsert himself, so he can be happy as well.

It’s not enraging, since he’s not a bad guy and this is supposed to be a comedy, but the underlying message, intentional or not, is that Nobody Puts Baby in a Corner. You, my friend, are not only entitled to the spotlight, you’re obligated to bask therein.

All that aside, Click is a sweet movie, closer to The Wedding Singer than The Waterboy, and on the whole it’s much better than I expected it to be. I’m still waiting for Sandler to do something on par with his amazing work in Punch Drunk Love, but this film, as if there were any doubt, falls far short of that standard. Despite my quibbling, it’s hard to cast aspersions on Click’s ‘“take the good with the bad’” message, however ham-fisted its delivery. Like its main character, the film obviously means well, and though its premise is problematic (if you can fast-forward, why can’t you rewind?), it’s mostly effective in what it sets out to do.

Send your comments on this article to glen.baity@gmail.com, but be advised that its author has already clicked himself forward to the premiere of Pirates of the Caribbean 2.

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