After the 2002 embarrassment that was "Mr. Deeds," Adam Sandler uses a bit more tact in his latest attempt to plunder Frank Capra's vaults. Sandler's "Click" isn't a credited remake of "It's a Wonderful Life," but its thematic purpose is very similar -- a magical gift helps a sad-sack guy reprioritize his life and recognize the moments that have been under his nose the whole time. While Sandler, visibly maturing as a performer, shouldn't be advised to shun movies with heart, he needs to recognize the difference between genuine emotions and this sort of decidedly unfunny mawkishness.
Michael Newman (Sandler) has a smoking hot wife (Kate Beckinsale), two adorable children (Joseph Castanon and Tatum McCann) and a decent job as an architect working under an ungrateful boss (David Hasselhoff). Michael wants to give his family the best, but he can only do that by working too much and missing quality time with them. A trip to the "Beyond" section of Bed, Bath and Beyond (a joke that has now been recycled everywhere from "Family Guy" to "Last Comic Standing" and should thus be retired) yields a solution: The eccentric Morty (Christopher Walken) offers him a true universal remote that can control every aspect of his life. Soon, Michael is fast-forwarding through fights, muting his dog and watching sexy, bouncing joggers in slo-mo. Unfortunately the remote is intuitive and soon it's deciding what parts of Michael's life he gets to live and what parts he gets to skip.
The film uses one of cinema's most popular conceits, a work/home dilemma that has spawned such variable works as "Bruce Almighty," "Family Man" and "Multiplicity." But the plot doesn't take nearly as much advantage of the central remote as you might hope. Walken's character spends a long scene explaining the remote's mechanics, but very quickly the only button Michael uses is fast-forward, allowing for futuristic sequences dominated by Rick Baker's showy makeup. Director Frank Coraci and writers Steve Koren and Mark O'Keefe are content to build scenes around superficial jokes and then insert a line of overbearing dialogue to beg for sympathy. Look, there's Adam Sandler with a huge gut, what a pity he's sleepwalking through life. Wow, Adam Sandler's going to look a lot like Al Pacino when he's old, he's going to wish he had spent more time with his kids. The effects become the story, they don't serve it.
In the absence of humor generated within by the story itself, the script has to insert a number of low-brow repeated gags, including at least a dozen scenes in which Michael's dog humps a giant stuffed duck. I'm not so prudish that a dog making sweet, sweet love to a duck doesn't make me chuckle once or twice, but after a while, exhaustion sets in. The same is true of Rob Schneider's inevitable ethnically stereotyped cameo, this time as the Arab Prince Habibu. It's also true of Sandler's undying love for "Wedding Singer"-style flashbacks to the '80s, which he must figure are inherently funny.
By aiming low, "Click" wastes Sandler's understated work, frequently playing the straight man to Walken, whose first line-reading of the word "remote control" sets the tone for a typically wacky performance, and Hasselhoff. He gets some touching moments with Henry Winkler, as his father, and he has decent chemistry with Beckinsale, though her part mostly just requires her to shake her head in disappointment.
Sandler earns our sympathy, but the movie isn't smart enough to earn the climactic emotional release that it pushes for at the end. Too much sap and not enough laughs ultimate doom "Click."Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times