Review: “Click”

2006 is turning out to be the year of mis-marketed mainstream comedies. Just the other week came “The Break-Up”, a film that tried to fuse your average Vince Vaughn comedy with a relatively realistic and down to earth dramatic take on the end of a relationship. Of course in all the promotions for it, the serious elements of the film were dumped in favour of the more generic comedy highlights. It may have gotten more bums in seats, but this misdirection was ultimately to the film’s detriment with audiences and critics not getting what they were expecting.

Now the same thing has happened again with “Click”. The advertisements display what essentially appears to be a somewhat silly fantasy concept comedy filled with all the usual Adam Sandler low-brow humour trademarks. In part that’s true, the first half of “Click” plays exactly as it appears albeit with a lot less out loud laughs than expected. If you’ve seen the commercials you’ve seen all the highlights of what Sandler can do with his remote control that allows him to stop, skip and rewind key moments in his life.

Then at the halfway point the film jarringly switches tracks, seems this smart remote and suddenly gets jammed on auto skip which every few minutes pushes Sandler forward in time a few years – and the periods in between he becomes a cold, work-driven, emotionally distant guy whose family falls apart because of it. From this point on the film evolves into a surprisingly weighty moral drama, a kind of sci-fi spin on “It’s A Wonderful Life”, that hammers home the lesson that you should live life to the fullest in the present, otherwise you might just miss out on it all until it’s too late.

It’s a combination of both types of Adam Sandler, the dumb but easy going macho comedies like “The Waterboy” or “The Longest Yard”, and the more serious dramatic emotional guy from the likes of “Punch Drunk Love” and “The Wedding Singer”. Unfortunately it’s not an effective fusing. Unlike “The Break-Up” which mixed it all but worked with a consistency of vision, “Click” is far more of a cobbled together entity trying to fuse a bunch of ideas and gags together in an attempt to gel. Sandler himself, and to lesser extent a small but decent turn by Christopher Walken, manage to barely hold it altogether and thankfully deliver not only the occasional clever laugh but moment of effective emotion as well.

Many of the gags, though kept pretty clean, are still of the juvenile type which only a few will find funny. Laughs are attempted to be mined out of such sparkling material as Sean Astin wearing speedos that are far too small or Sandler enjoying beating up on the gloating bratty kid of the neighbours next door. Not helping are good comic talents like David Hasselhoff and Jennifer Coolidge being stuck with weak roles, despite ample screen time for both.

Still, the concept is enough of a pull that when the remote comes into play it does a good job of exploring the idea of technology controlling our lives along with some of the more fun ‘playing god’ ideas. In one great sequence it turns Sandler’s life into a DVD release that includes a ‘making of’ (Sandler visits the night his parents conceived him), chapter selection (which allows for lots of time jumping) and a commentary track by James Earl Jones. These are the best bits of the film where it mines the setup directly with some hilarious consequences, and avoids the stupid juvenile jokes that plague the early parts such as the incessantly repeated gag about the family dog having sex with a stuffed duck.

When the future skipping begins though, the film takes a turn and mixes heavy-handed morality lessons with gushing sentimentality. Humour has long ago left the building, unless Sandler’s face CG plastered onto an obese man’s body gets you giggling. The remainder of the film, where Sandler sees how much of a mess his life has become because he was far more concerned with working rather than living, plays out like a bad “Twilight Zone” episode.

The preachiness and snail’s pacing though are overcome by two touching emotional moments involving Sandler wishing goodbye to his loved ones – moments that, despite their cheesiness, are beautifully effective in their regret, grief and frustration thanks to his strong performance. It’s also the only time both Beckinsale and Winkler, stuck in one-note roles as his wife and father respectively, finally get a chance to do something with their parts. The Winkler scene in particular is quite heartbreaking.

Still, those two emotional high points aren’t enough to save the tedium of the second half, or a conclusion that essentially rips off Capra’s “Wonderful Life” to the point of basic plagiarism. Both the comedic and dramatic portions of the film have a few scant moments that ring true, but those are only scant moments in a mess of a studio picture that essentially throws a bunch of ideas at a wall in the hope that something will stick. It’s a quite polished production with key moments that are more satisfying than some of the other films that have hit this Summer, but the filler in between is just as dull – if not more so.