Who likes slightly deranged, mildly inappropriate analogies? I know … I know. We all do. Well, here’s one that somebody is bound to take issue with: Click is like an abusive, alcoholic stepfather who gets raging drunk one night and pulls his stepkid out of bed and kicks him down two flights of stairs for forgetting to turn out the light in the kitchen. And when that poor kid finally wakes up, his stepfather is standing above him, breathing his whiskey-and-stale-Pall-Mall halitosis and apologizing for breaking the kid’s arm. Sure, a child with a soft heart will reluctantly forgive and weep into his inebriated stepdad’s embrace, but any adolescent with an ounce of self-respect is going to tell the ol’man to fuck off, and stepdad is gonna toss him over the banister and break the other arm.
Likewise, Click metaphorically tosses us down the stairs with punishingly unfunny attempts at humor, only to steer the film into new, obscenely sentimental territory in a last-minute plea to convince a few soft-hearted theatergoers into forgetting about that elbow bone jutting out of their shoulder and accept the warm embrace of a weepy man-child. And I’ll admit, the apology is almost authentic, if only it weren’t so goddamn profuse — but in the end, all the Capraesque flourishes in the world couldn’t prevent me from calling child services the next morning and demanding that they set me up with Vince Vaughn as my next foster dad, ‘cause at least he sweet-talks me after throwing me down the staircase instead of using my separated shoulder to sob on.
Indeed, for those of you familiar with the Adam Sandler oeuvre, Click offers no new twists on his boundless formula for inexplicable success: Take a worn-out cinematic blueprint; add a midlevel Hollywood starlet on her last legs to act as love interest (Kate Beckinsale, sans black leather); round up the usual bit-part players (Henry Winkler and Rob Schneider); add an “SNL” alum (Rachel Dratch); throw in a classic figure from the ’80s (David Hasselhoff); and then yell at the camera until the morality clause kicks in, forcing Sandler to deliver the film’s gooey message, which is usually something along the lines of “Be nice to your dog, asshole.” And while his filmography has mostly been blandly inoffensive (save for Little Nicky and Mr. Deeds) or even occasionally charming (The Wedding Singer), he’s all but committed blasphemy with Click, using It’s a Wonderful Life as the film’s template, which is a bit like having David Spade playing the lead in The Passion of Christ as far as this critic is concerned. Hell, I’ve got no problem with Sandler borrowing a Burt Reynolds classic or infinitely repeating himself as an actor, but c’mon: Why do you have to mess with It’s a Wonderful Life?
In Click, Sandler yet again plays a sad-sack extraordinaire, this time as an architect who is too preoccupied with his job to notice he’s married to bloody Kate Beckinsale, who in real life probably wouldn’t stub a cigarette out between his eyes. Confused over which remote is supposed to melt the film reel and save us all from the next two hours, he goes off to find a universal one, winding up eventually at Bed, Bath and Beyond, all but revealing where his “magical” Capra moment will begin. There, he bumps into the reliably kooky Christopher Walken, who takes him off to the “Way Beyond” (clever, Adam — did you think that one up yourself?) and offers him a remote that controls his life, allowing him to mute his dog, fast-forward through fights with his wife, and slow-mo his drive through the neighborhood to ogle a jogger’s breasts. But like a TiVo, he discovers that the remote learns from his behavior, and begins fast-forwarding him through large chunks of his existence, stopping only occasionally to allow us all to watch the family dog hump a stuffed duck.
Eventually, Click runs out of neat ways to mine the remote-control humor (and by “neat,” I mean freeze-framing a meeting long enough to flatulate in the Hoff’s face), and Sandler quickly progresses through years and then decades of his life, as the lives around him expire or move on in a stop-motion blur. Actually, the last few minutes quickly call to mind the series finale of “Six Feet Under,” only “SFU” was good, and Click is more like a swift kick in the junk. Indeed, it’s done so goddamn inexpertly that you kind of want to throw yourself down the stairs just to end it all, but anyone who is a sucker for “Merry Christmas, you wonderful old Building and Loan!” may get swept up in the notion just enough to feel a few pricks around your eyelids before getting angry with yourself for falling — even fleetingly — for the hackneyed manipulation.
Still, I suspect that those with irrationally indiscriminate taste in cinema and a heart soft enough to melt under a fluorescent light may forgive the first 100 minutes of tedium, and blubber on their butter-stained seat during the last 10 minutes, resolving themselves — for a few minutes, at least —to be nicer to their dog. And in a way, I suppose, I can envy that sort of simple-minded optimism but, then again, I’m not going home to stare blankly at the Game Show Network while life passes me by. I’m going to watch “Entourage,” instead.
Dustin Rowles is the publisher of Pajiba. He lives in a blue house with his wife in a hippie colony/college town in upstate New York. You may email him, or leave a comment below.
Click Scores at Box Office; Thousands of Children Cower in Closet
Click / Dustin Rowles
Film | June 23, 2006 | Comments ()