- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 22, 2006

Critics have long wished for a magic remote control to rewind to a time when Adam Sandler wasn’t a movie star.

That won’t happen, but the man-child’s newest film offers a cautionary tale about the dangers of just such a gadget.

“Click” finds Mr. Sandler venturing into “It’s a Wonderful Life” terrain, where a regular Joe realizes his flawed life isn’t so bad after all. His character finds the ultimate universal remote but winds up wishing he could watch his life go by in real time.

Just don’t think Jimmy Stewart would have had a hand in this. It is, after all, a Happy Madison production, so it smacks enough characters in the groin to appease Mr. Sandler’s base.

“Click’s” Michael Newman (Mr. Sandler) is your average stressed-out father trying to balance work and family life. Lately, the job is winning the tug of war, even though his on-screen wife is the ravishing Kate Beckinsale.

How he leaves the house on any given day is a head-scratcher.

Even when Michael tries to unwind he can’t figure out which remote controls the television. So off he goes to Bed, Bath and Beyond, of all places, to buy a universal remote. (It’s just one of many product placement detours which make “Click” feel like a star-studded infomercial.)

Once there, he heads toward a sign saying “Beyond,” where he meets Morty (Christopher Walken, his singular tics so pronounced he may be spoofing himself now) tinkering in a back room.

Morty hands him, for no charge, a remote that hasn’t even hit the market yet. The device doesn’t just flip channels. It controls everything around Michael. It turns the volume down on the family dog’s yelps, fast forwards through odious chores and lets Michael ogle a buxom jogger in slow motion.

It even helps secure a promotion at his architecture firm, where his boss (David Hasselhoff) runs a virtual sexual harassment clinic.

But the remote features a TiVo-like device that remembers how and when Michael skips through his life. Suddenly, it zips him straight past lovemaking sessions and gallops over chunks of time toward the next work promotion.

He can’t turn it off now, and Morty suddenly isn’t as benign a figure as we first imagine.

Mr. Sandler’s comic persona, which too often seethes with a rage alien to those violent Stooges of yore, strikes a compelling balance between “Click’s” noble messages. His displaced anger comes in handy here just as it did in the 2002 curiosity “Punch-Drunk Love.”

The growing Sandler entourage provides competent support, from “The Waterboy’s” Henry Winkler to “50 First Dates’” Sean Astin.

The film also shares the same flaws as Mr. Sandler’s previous comedies. Must the child characters in his films curse with such abandon? Can’t Mr. Sandler find a director who knows how those children actually behave?

A few comic morsels sneak through the barrage of profanity and crude sight gags. A running joke involving the family dog and an unsuspecting stuffed toy begins crassly enough but actually becomes endearing by film’s end. And having James Earl Jones provide the commentary on the DVD-like menu of Michael’s remote is sheer inspiration.

“Click” marks another baby step in Mr. Sandler’s attempt to mature gracefully beyond his “Billy Madison” infancy. But without the presence of the pixie-like Drew Barrymore, Mr. Sandler will make some viewers wish they could fast forward to the next stage in his development.

**1/2

TITLE: “Click”

RATING: PG-13 (Frequent profanity, sexual situations and cartoon-like violence)

CREDITS: Directed by Frank Coraci. Written by Steve Koren and Mark O’Keefe. Special make-up effects by Rick Baker.

RUNNING TIME: 98 minutes

WEB SITE: www.controlyouruniverse.com

MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS

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