Click

Michael (Adam Sandler) is an overworked architect hoping his long hours of service will impress his boss (David Hasselhoff). Sacrificing his time with his wife (Kate Beckinsale, told to stand in a corner and look pretty) and kids, and feeling the heat of neglect, Michael finds the cure for what ails him one late night at Bed, Bath, and “Way Beyond.” Offered a special universal remote by a peculiar salesman (Christopher Walken), Michael finds the clicker can mute, rewind, and fast-forward his own life. Overjoyed with his new toy, Michael soon looks on in horror as the remote starts to make its own choices on what precious moments he skips through.

For some time now, Adam Sandler has been striving to merge his uninhibited sense of humor with screenplays that endeavor to touch the viewer in more heartfelt ways. So far, it’s worked (“Wedding Singer,” “50 First Dates”), but with “Click,” Sandler is pushing his luck; a cloying, second-rate public service announcement on the dangers of neglectful fatherhood, “Click” will surely dishearten even Sandler’s most forgiving faithful, while putting the casual viewer right to sleep.

“Click” sure starts off on the right foot. While playing a softer, domesticated version of his old self, the film still gives plenty of room for Sandler to play around with his idiosyncratic sense of humor, providing nonstop situations for Michael to comment on his incredible surroundings in increasingly Sandleresque ways. “Click” is actually somewhat of a sci-fi comedy, and director Frank Coraci (“The Wedding Singer’), does good work keeping the special effects away from overpowering Sandler and letting him get goofy with the promising premise.

Still, something is holding Sandler from breaking away from the screenplay’s severe dramatic arc. Perhaps fearing he might upset the whole concoction if he plays it too broad, Sandler pulls back at moments, when in any other film, he would just let it rip, or bring in one of his favorite co-stars to do it for him (Rob Schneider, Sean Astin, and Henry Winkler co-star). The theme of neutering domesticity is taken to heart by “Click,” with Coraci pulling out some tired flatulence and dog-humping gags to score easy laughs, in place of the gleeful absurdist humor that Sandler has turned into something of an art form during his career. Undoubtedly there are many moments that shine – the indispensable Terry Crews as Michael’s fellow rush hour motorist rocking out spastically to Loverboy had me doubled over – but there isn’t nearly enough wacky spread around here, especially to counteract what’s served up for the finale.

Since “Click” is something of a DVD menu version of the “Christmas Carol,” Michael’s fingers take him through his future and past life; a majority of the sequences are played for marital laughs, but once “Click” gets its fangs into melodrama, there’s no stopping it. The film reaches intolerable levels of soap opera excess as Michael begins to recognize that his life saving remote is actually an impossible burden. Coraci sledgehammers home the message that family should be appreciated; a valuable lesson, don’t get me wrong, but it’s used as binding on too many films these days. Moderation is the key.

Putting Sandler in fat guy and old age makeup raises a certain expectation that “Click” will continue its pursuit of the funny, but the jovial attitude that defined the first two acts comes to a lurching stop. The production wants tears, and they shove the sentimentality right up to the screen in crushingly idiotic ways. These are the moments that make one wish they had their own remote control to skip the sap and get right back to the comedy.

Rating: C+
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