Sunday, July 02, 2006

"Who's got the box?": Click

Click, which I mercifully saw for free, is a movie that tries far too hard at everything it does. It tries to be a silly gross-out comedy. It tries to be a sentimental Capra-esque type story. It tries to be a tale of family loved, then lost.

You can almost see the strain on its face.

But let's back up just a bit.

I am not, by nature, an Adam Sandler hater. I don't think there's a single one of his movies that I would unequivocally recommend (well, Punchdrunk Love, but that's not REALLY a Sandler movie, is it?), but I also don't think he's emblematic of any great failure of American culture (he mostly proved that teenage boys like fart jokes -- but teenage boys have ALWAYS liked fart jokes). Happy Gilmore is probably his pinnacle, a dark, violent comedy full of sophomoric jokes and weird surrealist bent that is never allowed to come to full flower. Some, I suppose, would argue for The Waterboy, but Happy Gilmore was where the formula saw its first perfect application.

But Sandler has tried to imbue this formula with something that makes it nauseating, hard to take: sentimentality. From Big Daddy on, his films have become steeped in moments of sheer, corny emotion that just don't mesh with the other stuff described above. In Big Daddy, he really wanted a kid. In Anger Management, he really wanted the girl. And in Click, he really wants to hold on to his family.

Click feels like a personal film for Sandler in many ways. You can see in how hard he's trying to act here. And he manages to land a few of the more emotional scenes. When he reacts to his cold self rebuffing his father (this all makes more sense if you'll see the movie -- but please don't), the scene almost works. Whatever acting coach he's hired is working for him.

But the central failure of this film is the central failure of MANY Hollywood films now: Click has a great high-concept and no idea of what to do with it.

The high concept is this: Adam Sandler gets a remote control that controls the universe. It's genius in its simplicity -- indeed, you can't believe it hasn't been a movie before, especially since EVERYone has pointed a remote at someone jokingly to hit the mute button or turn down the volume. And the writers of this film introduce lots of nifty ideas on how to use the remote and then don't really use ANY of them, choosing to focus on the fast forward device, which takes Sandler's character through the decades far too quickly as he watches his life disintegrate around him (hence the treacly sentiment I warned you about).

The remote, you see, remembers what you've fast forwarded before and programs itself accordingly. Fast forward through a traffic jam, and it will fast forward through EVERY traffic jam. Fast forward through a shower, and it will fast forward through EVERY shower. And so on.

This COULD be a sort of nifty metaphor for the way so many fast forward through their family lives to advance their career lives (believing the latter will benefit the former), but Click is too depressingly on the nose in that regard to work. It flat-out tells you what its central metaphor stands for.

What's more, none of the jokes land. They don't have the reckless goofiness of Sandler's best gags. Some of them are just disgusting without finding any sort of amusement.

Finally, Kate Beckinsale plays one of the most saintly, un-feminist wives in the history of the movies. Let me repeat that Adam Sandler is married to KATE BECKINSALE. And the movie wants us to believe that he would NOT BE THAT EXCITED TO HAVE SEX WITH HER. I'm sorry. I just couldn't buy this. He's Adam Sandler. She's KATE BECKINSALE. No, Click. No.

Amid all of this, Christopher Walken somehow manages to make his performance work, even if he's playing one of the most inexplicable characters in any film this year (really -- try to explain to me his motivations after you've watched this film). Of course he's just relying on his old schtick, but it's schtick he performs well, and you're happy to see him whenever he's on screen.

Please don't see this movie. It's gaudy and shoddily made (the makeup is atrocious). The jokes aren't funny, and the sentimental moments are (for the wrong reasons). And it wastes perfectly competent actors who are funny people in roles that are underwritten or feel like they were entirely chopped out in the editing room.

There are many, MANY better choices for your family entertainment dollar than Click. I trust you'll find them.

1 comment:

Andy Scott said...

It's weird. I read a bunch of reviews on Click that said Adam Sandler is a bad actor. He's obviously no Marlon Brando, but some of the critics were way too hard on the guy. I actually thought he was pretty good in Spanglish, and he got the job done in every other Sandler movie I've seen.

But I haven't seen any of his recent comedies, so what do I know?