Click | Movie+TV Reviews | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

Published June 28, 2006 at 4:00 a.m.

I enjoyed this movie, but have to admit there's something a trifle disconcerting receiving life lessons from Adam Sandler. Directed by Frank (The Wedding Singer) Coraci and written by Steve Koren and Mark O'Keefe -- the team behind Bruce Almighty -- Click is an update of It's a Wonderful Life, an homage to Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" and a commercial for Bed, Bath & Beyond all rolled into one.

Sandler plays an overworked architect who's focused on making money for his wife and two young children when he really should be making time for them. This, of course, is one of those personality traits that can prove a character flaw only in works of fiction. In real life, husbands and wives are routinely overworked, and the people who make time for their children are the staff of the daycare centers at which they deposit them on the way to the office. Only in Hollywood could a faithful husband, loving father and good provider such as Sandler's Michael Newman serve as the model for a mortal who's ripe for a supernatural course correction.

At the start of the film, he's flummoxed by the array of remote-control devices that have accumulated in his home. He tries to turn on the TV and the overhead fan starts up. Another sends a toy zooming across the room. Yet another opens the garage door. Fed up, he heads off to the land of the big boxes and finds himself passing the bed-and-bath sections in search of the "beyond." Down a long hallway, behind a patented mad-scientist-style workbench, he finds -- who else? -- Christopher Walken.

Walken plays Morty, the mystical, metaphorical department's Harpo-haired manager. After listening to Michael's story, Morty declares that good guys deserve a break now and then, presents him with a device he explains is not yet on the market, and cautions that it cannot be returned.

Returning the magical contraption initially is the last thing Sandler's character would dream of doing. One by one, he discovers amazing ways the universal remote makes it possible for him to literally control his universe. The dog barks while he works late at night; Sandler turns his volume down. An argument with his wife (Kate Beckinsale) begins; he fast-forwards to its end. His boss (David Hasselhoff) reneges on a big promotion; Sandler pauses the scene, leaps onto the creep's desk, bends over and launches a massive gas attack an inch away from his face.

The problem is, the clicker comes with features he doesn't realize it has until it's too late. The thing possesses a TiVo-like ability to learn its owner's habits and preferences. After the first time he fast-forwards through foreplay, the device sets itself to automatically repeat the process every time sex is initiated. The same thing happens after the first time he fast-forwards past an illness. Ditto with the first time he skips ahead to a bona fide promotion. The minutes, hours and days he misses this way add up with alarming swiftness, until it dawns on him that what he's fast-forwarding through is, in fact, his life.

To be sure, the metaphysical dilemmas and paradoxes the film contemplates won't leave anyone confusing Click with the work of Charlie Kaufman. At the same time, Koren and O'Keefe's script does fiddle intriguingly with a number of head-scratching conundrums. You may wonder, for example, what happens to Michael and his family in real time while Michael is speed-shuttling past them to the future. The writers offer the explanation that the real-time Michael is an "automatic pilot" version of himself. "You won't be the life of the party," Walken explains. He goes on to add that this Michael will talk, walk, eat and be physically present, though not fully engaged, in events around him.

It's a rather apt description of a distracted or emotionally unavailable husband, and a logical explanation for why Michael's marriage fails to stand the test of time travel. Like George Bailey and Ebenezer Scrooge, Michael Newman discovers too late that his pursuit of all he believes most valuable has cost him everything he values most. The makers of Click go those fables one darker, though, and give us Sandler's character at the moment of his death doing the one thing in his power to redeem himself: warning his grown children not to follow in his footsteps.

Did I mention this is a comedy? Coraci does a commendable job of juggling the life-and-death verities and the fart jokes. Sandler is convincing when the tone turns tragic, and entertaining in an underplayed, relatively low-key way, when it's time to make with the funny business. The laughs aren't fall-out-of-your-seat big, but they're often on the money, and there are lots of them.

Don't get me wrong: Click is not about to take the place of Frank Capra's beloved classic in the hearts and minds of moviegoers. It's a minor entertainment. All the same, I think you'll be surprised by what an alternately amusing and moving experience it offers. If I'd had one of those magic remotes in my hand as I watched, I'm not sure I would have changed a single thing.