Comedy doesn’t quite ‘click’ in new Sandler film

BY CATE MARQUIS, SPECIAL TO THE JEWISH LIGHT

“Be careful what you wish for, you might get it” is the caution underlying Adam Sandler’s new film about a harried Jewish family man and architect who gets a universal remote control that is truly universal.

Michael Newman (Adam Sandler) is feeling overworked and stretched thin. He wants to spend more time with his wife Donna (Kate Beckinsale) and their two small kids but he is struggling to make partner in his architectural firm, a promise his demanding, oddball, selfish boss (David Hasselhoff) is dangling before him. He thinks if he could just make partner, he and his family could relax and spend more time together.

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So many things seem to be distracting him and slowing him down. His parents, Ted and Trudy Newman (Henry Winkler and Julie Kavner), who tell the same stories over and over, his dysfunctional sister-in-law and her messy life, the kids, the dog, even his wife all put demands on his time and attention. He cannot even find the right remote for the TV.

While searching for a universal remote to solve at least that problem, Michael stumbles across an odd, wild-haired inventor named Morty (Christopher Walken), who has an item that may be the answer to Michael’s stretched-thin life. This universal remote is special, for it can control Michael’s whole life. A skeptical Michael is amazed to find that he can mute the dog’s irritating bark with a touch of a button and fast-forward through an argument with his wife or an annoying cold, or replay a pleasant memory. Of course, Michael’s new powers bring some unexpected problems too.

Click is not a bad film but it is dragged down by some juvenile or distasteful humor. Adam Sandler keeps trying to break out of a just-comedy mode but seems to keep sabotaging his own efforts by returning to the same mean-spirited and/or potty humor. Sandler’s fan base seems to enjoy his kind of humor but many people find it has a mean streak that is decidedly unfunny.

Click draws on familiar elements from previous films like It’s a Wonderful Life, Bruce Almighty and even A Christmas Carol. From this stew, the film makes a worthy effort to create a story with a positive message about life priorities. The film focuses on basic Jewish values about the importance of family although, while Sandler makes it clear that the family is Jewish, we do not learn whether they are observant. However, the positive aspects of Click do not mesh well with Sandler’s humor. The film is made less appealing by reoccurring humor like a dog trying to mate with a stuffed animal, cruel adult retaliation to an obnoxious neighbor child, and familiar bathroom and sexual jokes. There is just enough of this to keep it from being a family film.

Click is not just this kind of comedy but it is a running theme in the movie. Underneath it all, Click has a warm message about family and people that is very appealing, as it is message about a man whose choices in life take him away from what he really wanted.

Acting is good, although Sandler still struggles to get through anything emotionally tender. Christopher Walken is the best, as the bizarre Morty, a strange fellow somewhere between a mad scientist and eccentric watchmaker, who shows flashes of a darker side and a more powerful persona. Watching Walken is just great fun, and he provides the best comedy in the film. Kate Beckinsale is good as Donna, Michael’s wife, and Henry Winkler and Julie Kavner are delightful and funny as Michaels’ sweet, slightly offbeat parents.

The special effects are good, and provide some extra fun and entertainment. The story flows well enough, building a good emotional momentum, although that flow is undermined by the nasty comic bits sprinkled throughout.

Click has some charm and warmth and succeeds somewhat despite the taste issues. The sentimental aspect of this film might not work for fans of Sandler’s mean humor but maybe next time he will find a more universal comic note to better fit his film.