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Until September 24, Dome Cinema 
Directed by Frank Coraci. Written by: Mark O'Keefe, Adam Sandler, Steve Koren. Starring: Adam Sandler, Kate Beckinsale, David Hasselhoff, Sophie Monk, Christopher Walken. 107 min. USA.

By Matt Siegel

Review Top Sheet: Adam Sandler plays a shlubby working stiff with a heart of gold whose wishes for a quick fix for his existential angst are answered in the form of a universal remote control that - get this - really controls the Universe. I would love to be able to say that hilarity ensues. In reality, though, what ensues is a sorry procession of fart jokes and scenes of dogs humping stuffed animals, leading our hero to realize that what really matters most in life isn’t money or fame but rather the simple joys of familial domesticity.

Also, there are a lot of jokes based on 1930’s-era racial stereotypes, but not in a post-ironic way, more like in a post-post-post ironic way, which my flat mate (an Oxford grad, no less) tells me is the point at which something stops being ironic and becomes merely embarrassing. However, after watching this film I am prepared to say (and you heard it here first, if you’re thinking about stealing credit when it comes true): Adam Sandler will be the next Tom Hanks. However, the approximately 1 minute 30 seconds of the film in which this is apparent are not worth the 105 minutes 30 seconds of the aforementioned fart/bestiality humor that constitute its bulk.

Will you like this film?

Yes if: You loved that horrifically precocious little girl who used to appear in the Pepsi adverts, and think that fart jokes are really, really funny.
No if: You are 14 years or older.
Maybe if: You’re into dogs humping stuffed animals. You know, in that way.

Comments: Click is a typical example of the new, “grown-up” Adam Sandler film. While Sandler’s classic characters were pot-smoking alcoholics (Billy Madison) or violence-prone oddballs (Happy Gilmore), Click’s Michael Newman is a hard working architect and family man with nary a vice to speak of, save the odd Twinkie. This follows a trajectory that Sandler has been charting since the release of 1999’s Big Daddy, from down-market clown to wholesome American everyman.

Click is a perfect example of the perils of a “down-the-middle” approach. By appealing to an adult market he abandons the raunchy humor that endeared him to an earlier generation of fans, yet the jokes are so juvenile that no serious adult will want to sit through the endless deluge of scatological humor. The jokes feel phoned in; the delivery of the one liners that used to be his forte falls achingly flat, ostensibly because he doesn’t seem to know to whom he is supposed to be directing them. Is he laughing with you or with your middle-aged father? Sandler’s special charm used to shine through in his ability to, with a nod and a wink, make you think he was speaking just to you, that you were sharing an inside joke. In Click, though, he comes across not like your obnoxiously witty pal, but more like that obnoxious guy on the metro who just doesn’t get why you don’t want to talk to him about “the rack on that chick there.”

After watching Click, it seems to me that the time has come for Adam Sandler to pick his poison: either he’s going to be your pal or he’s going to be your dad’s pal. This in-between stuff just isn’t working for anyone involved.

Out-of-five star ratings:
Story: *
Dialogue: *
Substance: **
FilmCraft: *

Story Comments: As mentioned above, the main plot point of the film centers around a generally likeable middle-class guy who, struggling to balance the crush of the workaday week with a (ridiculously hot and perfect) wife and two (horrifically precious) children, stumbles into a deal with the “you know who,” who provides him with a universal remote control that allows him to manipulate the powers of time and space. As things slowly spiral out of control he’s forced to learn a painful life lesson: how much more likeable and middle-class he has to become to find true happiness.

This is not a story that covers any creative ground that hasn’t been previously covered about a thousand times before, but to be fair, it does manage to retread that same ground in a relatively unimaginative and offensive manner. By the end of the film the moral of the story is painfully clear: as long as you’re married to Kate Beckinsale and can be happy with just being married to Kate Beckinsale, you too can have a wonderful life.

Dialogue Comments: I have to be honest: it’s so impossibly difficult to imagine that Kate Beckinsale would actually be married to a guy that looked like Adam Sandler that I couldn’t pay attention to a word that passed between them. I might as well have been in a coma the whole time they were together onscreen, except that I’ve heard that people in comas can actually remember some of the things that people around them said, so maybe it’s not an apt metaphor after all. No, wait, that’s actually not 100% true. I do remember that there was some embarrassingly trite phrase that they kept repeating to each other about how they would always be in love, but again, it was so unbelievable that it carries all the weight of a malarial fever-dream in my memory.

Having said that, Christopher Walken was, as always, a pleasure to watch during his unfortunately minimal screen time. His visual language of paroxysmal gesticulation, coupled with his dialogue, which was twisted into a awkwardly comic cocktail of mispronounced words and purposefully (?) mistimed syllabic stresses, evoke the memory of jazz greats like Dizzy Gillespie. If Dizzy Gillespie did fart jokes, that is.

And, to be fair, every word that drips from the golden tongue of Hasselhoff resounds with a glory almost too great for human ears. He did drive Kit and personally tear down the Berlin Wall for God’s sake. That has to count for something.

Substance Comments: Ok. Truth time. There is a point during the film, which I won’t reveal for fear of spoiling, during which I kind of misted up. Maybe it has more to do with my own failed relationship with my father than the actual substance of the film, but it kind of got me there for a moment, like one of those Hallmark commercials they have on TV where the kid comes back from his first year at college and hugs his parents and his dad chucks him on the shoulder and they go outside to play basketball and live happily ever after in the dull haze of middle-America, but not before his father gives him a greeting card telling him just how proud he is of his little boy who’s now become a man. It’s not exactly the stuff that great literature is made of, but it is good for tug on the old heartstrings, and that’s exactly what the self-consciously dramatic portions of this film are designed to do.

Having said that, I felt twice as dirty after succumbing to this film’s manipulation than any Hallmark advert I’ve ever seen. But then again, no Hallmark advert ever had Kate Beckinsale in it (to my knowledge), and she just kind of makes me feel dirty in general. You know, in that way.

Filmcraft comments: This film features perhaps the most disturbing use of digital effects I’ve ever seen. Anywhere. Ever. It makes those creepy Hoover commercials with Fred Astaire dancing with a vacuum cleaner from beyond the grave seem as comforting as warm apple pie on a Sunday afternoon. It makes the scenes with Jabba The Hut from the digital remake of Star Wars seem brilliant in comparison. It made me not like Julie Kavner (playing Newman’s mother), and, for the love of God, she’s Marge Simpson. Remember the plastic surgery lady from Terry Gilliam’s Brazil? Well, compared to Kavner she looks like, well, Kate Beckinsale.

Otherwise the direction and cinematography were relatively inoffensive, aside from the odd nausea-inducing rapid pan across the New York skyline.

A taste of the story: Suburban family man uses his newfound omnipotence to speed through traffic jams and view breasts in slow motion. Hilarity ensues?

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