New Globalism ape-man, self-satisfied patron of slobbery, hot-tempered neo-Stooge—this is the Adam Sandler we think we know, but in the last few years the sacred Sandler paradigm has undergone a New Man towel twisting. From Punch-Drunk Love to Anger Management, 50 First Dates, and Spanglish, Sandlerism has been reconditioned as romantic bathos, auteurist and otherwise. (Next: Empty City, in which the Sandlerian schlub grieves for a family lost on 9-11.) But look again—even The Waterboy evolves, shockingly quickly, into inspirational snifflers à la Hoosiers. The Budweiser–and–-cheese-filled-crust-pizza crowd, to whom Sandler delivers an assuring exaltation of couch hedonism and a ragtag soundtrack of better-off-forgotten ’70s–’80s chart climbers, may be a population of potbellied Shirley Temples after all.
Click holds with the template in every detail, but in doing so attains a kind of terrifying grandeur. Eventually. First, we have to be satisfied with the busywork of the central gimmick: a supernatural remote given over to Sandler’s Michael, a prototypical workaholic architect with no time for his two adorable urchins or blastin’ corker of a wife (Kate Beckinsale, who inadvertently reaps the movie’s first laugh with her mere presence in the kitchen, all hot-patootie boxers and luxuriant tinted mane and Victoria’s Secret legs, as “Mom”). After stumbling into the “Beyond” section of Bed Bath & Beyond (y’know, PG-13 audiences never knew a time before product placements) and making buddies with a mysterious quack (a free-range Christopher Walken, dressed like Christopher Lloyd in Back to the Future), our sleepless, sick, frustrated semi-hero returns home with the dawning ability to pause arguments, fast-forward through boring dinners, rewind to early memories, la-di-da-di-da.
It’s every half-brained oaf’s daydream come true, and the movie knows it—soon enough, the desire to skip the irritating and elide the unpleasant takes over entirely, and Click passes in its second half into Michael’s hopscotched future, when age, weight, and narcissism are devastating wrecking balls. Thanks to the deranged priorities Sandler’s harried fool shares with most Americans, and which Adam Sandler movies usually exemplify—thoughtless ambition, headlong consumerism, convenience, careless entertainment, easy answers—he acts out a modern, distinctly wrenching version of It’s a Wonderful Life, where he spends most of time weeping for what he has missed (mostly as a parent) and reaches a kind of merciless point of no return by revisiting the final, regrettable meeting with his dead father (Henry Winkler) and rewinding, over and over again, the “I love you” he missed the first time around.
De rigueur hypocritical as it may be coming from Hollywood, Click is a cultural critique, with the dull blade and impact of a battle-ax. Whether the cojones on display belong to Sandler, screenwriters Steve Koren and Mark O’Keefe, director Frank Coraci, or if a single pair can be accumulated among them all, one cannot guess. But it’s a farce about loss, and it doesn’t flinch.