[Screen It]

(2006) (Adam Sandler, Kate Beckinsale) (PG-13)

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Comedy: A busy architect learns a valuable life lesson after he begins using a magical universal remote control that allows him to skip through time and control those around him.
Michael Newman (ADAM SANDLER) is a busy architect who's so busy trying to make partner at the firm run by his boss Ammer (DAVID HASELHOFF) that he barely has time to spend with his wife Donna (KATE BECKINSALE) or their young kids, Ben (JOSEPH CASTANON) and Samantha (TATUM McCANN). In fact, they nearly spend more quality time with Michael's parents, Ted (HENRY WINKLER) and Trudy (JULIE KAVNER) than with him, while Donna spends time with her oversexed friend Janine (JENNIFER COOLIDGE) when not taking the kids to swim events where they find swim instructor Bill (SEAN AUSTIN) in some small swimsuits.

Things come to a head when Michael has to cancel their camping trip in order to work on another project for Ammer. Needing some peace and quiet and fed up with so many remote controls around the house, Michael storms off to a local retail store in search of a universal remote that might at least give him a tad more control in his life. In the back of that store, he meets a whacky inventor type, Morty (CHRISTOPHER WALKEN), who gives him a new universal remote that, as Morty puts, "will rock your world."

Once back home, Michael discovers that not only can it mute the family dog, Sundance, but also pause and then fast forward Donna while she's mad at him. At first, he attributes those apparent hallucinations to a combination of cough medicine and junk food, but Morty later explains how the remote can work. Akin to the features menu on a DVD, the remote allows its user to move back and forth through time and control those around them.

Realizing he can use it to get through the tedious or unpleasant parts of his life, Michael is quite happy with the remote. That is, until it starts fast-forwarding on its own, eventually leading to him learning some valuable lessons about not letting one's life pass by too fast before it's too late to do anything about it.

OUR TAKE: 3.5 out of 10
Considering that people get so wrapped up in their lives, it's no surprise that cautionary tales such as "A Christmas Carol" and "It's A Wonderful Life" are so popular due to being resonant for viewers who can see themselves in Scrooge or George Bailey's shoes. And that's especially true in today's 24/7 world where it seems that there's less and less free time due to increasing workloads, family requirements and more.

Accordingly, the time is right again for another examination of the human existence and the fact that time and age never stop marching forward. But when the uneven and sporadically funny comedy "Click" starts, it seems anything but that (although anyone with a grain of sense or cinematic prognostication will clearly see where the story is headed).

And much of that's because the film stars Adam Sandler and remnants large and small of his popular frat boy comedy mentality that he just can't seem to shake (but then again, why should he since the films play to his target audience and make him insanely rich). Now, correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't recall the main characters in "Carol" or "Wonderful Life" farting in their bosses' faces, or those films containing the repeated sight gag of the family dog vigorously getting his mojo on with a large stuffed toy animal.

Nor did they contain remote controls, let alone magical ones, and that's the fun "what if" premise that screenwriters Steve Koren and Mark O'Keefe have concocted. While it might not be entirely original (there have been other films, TV episodes and more regarding devises that can control one's passage through time and/or the movement of others), the scribes and director Frank Coraci ("Around the World in 80 Days," "The Waterboy") use this film's universal remote as a metaphor about humankind's attempts to allow us to do more with our limited time (after all, how primitive, not to mention time consuming, is it to get up, trudge across the living room floor and actually have to change channels via a dial on the set?).

Of course, being a Sandler film, that's only the underlying subtext as the remote is otherwise used for generating comedic situations, often lowbrow in nature. The fun is in how the filmmakers have created the remote's menu for the protagonist's life as something akin to the same on a DVD release. There's audio commentary (by James Earl Jones no less), a making of featurette, language selections and the ability to skip back and forth through time via choosing chapters.

Since this is a learning remote -- naturally offered to Sandler's character by the appropriately cast Christopher Walken playing another oddball sort, this time seemingly playing up his now oft-imitated, halted vocal delivery -- it figures out what he wants. And since that's to jump forward in time after work, chores and other unpleasantries rear their ugly heads, the remote starts zipping him through time -- Bailey and Scrooge style -- where he soon sees the errors of what has become or will become, depending on where you think the story is headed.

But before that transition -- that's about as abrupt and jarring as slamming into a brick wall, resulting in all of the comedy spilling out, forever lost -- the film is all about gags, both related to the magical remote and just about anything else the filmmakers seem to want to throw in.

Beyond the amorous dog bits (of which there are far, far too many), there are repeated sequences where "SNL" player Rachel Dratch plays Sandler's assistant who repeatedly asks if she can use the bathroom and then rushes off to do so after he reminds her that she doesn't have to keep asking about that. Sean Austin occasionally is seen in Speedo type attire, while various out of place drug references sometimes pop up.

The lovely Kate Beckinsale repeatedly shows up in some rather sexy boxer jammies (which inevitably leads to sexual encounters that are fast forwarded -- although not to the same comedic effect as occurred in "A Clockwork Orange" that was set to the old "Lone Ranger" score, the William Tell Overture), while Jennifer Coolidge embodies a dippy (surprise) sexpot and David Hasselhoff plays the boss catalyst for Sandler's character being overworked. Aside from the eye candy offered by the talented Beckinsale who's otherwise wasted here, none of that amounts to much of anything aside from a random chuckle here and there.

The biggest problem, though, is that we simply don't like Sandler's character, and as an actor he doesn't have the chops to pull off the revelatory transition in a believable or engaging fashion. Still tapping into that adolescent id persona, he has ugly outbursts at others (including his kids), purposefully tries to belittle or otherwise taunt the bratty neighbor kid, and generally isn't a likeable sort.

The chapter skipping part of the story obviously provides the eye opening awakening his soul needs, but by then we don't care, so that transformation simply doesn't have the desired effect on the viewer (unless, perhaps, you're a diehard Sandler fan and have never seen "Carol," "Wonderful Life" or any other films of that genre ilk). And it certainly doesn't help that the humor far too obviously all but evaporates in a hurry during this part of the story.

That said, there are some decent moments to be had, such as Walken's whacky performance, an actually touching - however brief -- bit by Henry "The Fonz" Winkler as an emotionally hurt old father, a clever play on the last part of the Bed, Bath & Beyond title (and a goofy and short but fun performance by Nick Swardson as an employee there), and the overall DVD menu analogy structure.

But in trying to mix the serious and poignant Sandler material with the sophomoric and goofy comedy mindset, the filmmakers are left with a film suffering from a serious case of cinematic bipolar disorder. And without enough fun or imagination to be had in playing with the premise (after all, most anything is possible and/or could go wrong with that magic remote), the tonal clash and other faults are that much easier to spot and thus distract the viewer.

While I traditionally like these sorts of "live life to the fullest or else" cautionary flicks, this one just doesn't work that well. Although it's not bad enough to warrant being clicked off, one will probably wish (and thus be granted the opportunity once this release hits the home video market) they had use of the old "clicker" to skip through to the better parts of this "Click." The film rates as a 3.5 out of 10.

Reviewed June 20, 2006 / Posted June 23, 2006

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