“Click” doesn’t, alas. Adam Sandler’s recent low-key phase continues with this cleverly conceived but conspicuously unfunny comedy about an overworked dad whose supernatural ability to remote-control his life turns out to be a mixed blessing. Though clearly calculated to appeal to the actor’s adolescent male constituency, pic’s preference for scatological sight gags over meaningful humor will leave some viewers groping (or at least hoping) for a remote control of their own. Still, the proven draw of a high-concept Sandler vehicle will help the Sony release get off to a healthy start at the summer box office.
Michael Newman (Sandler) is a successful architect whose long hours at work have led him to neglect his beautiful wife Donna (Kate Beckinsale) and two adorable kids, Ben and Samantha (Joseph Castanon and Tatum McCann). Frustrated one evening by the presence of so many remote controls in the house — to the point where he can’t turn on the TV without mistakenly opening the garage door — Michael sets off to buy a universal remote, unaware that Fate is about to take his request quite literally.
While shopping at the local Bed, Bath and Beyond, Michael enters a secret room (labeled simply “Beyond”) where he encounters a man with a mad-scientist fro and a suspiciously gentle demeanor. The fact that his name is Morty (and that he’s played by Christopher Walken) should let auds know something is vaguely amiss, especially when he presents Michael with a stylish cobalt-blue remote control — adding creepily, “because good guys need a break every once in a while.”
It doesn’t take Michael long to realize how powerful the device is; it enables him to freeze time, mute his dog’s barking and fast-forward through arguments with Donna, simply by pointing and clicking. It also comes with an amusing DVD-style menu of options (impressively mounted by BlackBox) that allows him to revisit past moments in his life, with or without commentary.
Helmer Frank Coraci (who last directed Sandler in “The Waterboy”) employs clever visual-aural strategies to illustrate the universal remote’s powers as Michael becomes increasingly addicted. The screenplay, penned by producers Steve Koren and Mark O’Keefe, carefully lays the groundwork for Michael’s undoing as he uses the remote to manipulate his way into a big promotion, while continually skipping the insignificant or unpleasant.
The problem, and it’s a serious one, is that the pic’s crude, anything-for-a-laugh stabs at humor are utterly irrelevant to the material. Following an all-too-familiar playbook, script trots out far too many random and tiresome jokes about dog-humping, penis size, farts in the face, kicks to the groin, and the unpronounceability of Arab names — in short, everything you’d expect, if not necessarily want, from a Sandler comedy.
Ironically, Michael is one of thesp’s more restrained roles, closer to the likeable average Joes of “Anger Management” and the undervalued “50 First Dates” than the idiot man-child persona he cultivated in “Happy Gilmore” and “Billy Madison.” And Sandler — who, as he demonstrated in “Punch-Drunk Love,” can be a surprisingly graceful actor — does get a rare opportunity here to emote, as pic shifts from would-be comedy to surprisingly trenchant family drama.
Soon the remote begins to operate on its own volition, using its stored memory about Michael’s preferences to skip whole months, even years of his life without his permission. From here, “Click” takes a bold leap into the future, becoming a speculative cautionary tale in the tenor of “It’s a Wonderful Life” or “A Christmas Carol.”
As Michael sees his life systematically ruined by his long absences at home, Coraci jettisons the juvenile gags and wisely plays the material straight, extracting some unexpectedly resonant moments from the pic’s obligatory life lessons about prioritizing family over work. Old-age makeup is credibly applied to several characters, and production designer Perry Andelin Blake and set decorator Gary Fettis have fun advancing a supremely tacky vision of the future.
With the exception of Henry Winkler and Julie Kavner, who manage to overcome the stereotypical Jewish shtick foisted upon them as Michael’s parents, the supporting cast — by any standard an embarrassment of comic riches — is either misused or wasted.
Sean Astin’s swim teacher gets a cheap laugh simply by showing up in a speedo, while the customarily brilliant Jennifer Coolidge has little to do as Donna’s sniveling, man-hungry best friend. Rachel Dratch (“Saturday Night Live”) ekes out roughly three scenes and even fewer laughs as Michael’s awkward assistant, and David Hasselhoff is on point but hardly a riot as his ungrateful boss.