2006, PG-13, 97 min. Directed by Frank Coraci. Starring Adam Sandler, Kate Beckinsale, Christopher Walken, David Hasselhoff, Henry Winkler, Julie Kavner, Sean Astin, Joseph Castanon, Tatum McCann.

REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., June 23, 2006

Death scenes translate into comedy gold about as often as public screenings of The Day the Clown Cried occur. Granted, the rare auteurist bloodbath (Peter Jackson's Dead Alive, Michael Jackson's "Thriller") can scrounge genuine yuks from the gravest of situations, but as a rule, no one's laughing at doleful Macbeth despite the fact that, more and more, the Three Witches et al. feel as though they shambled straight out of one of the Coen brothers' more fabulist outings. Sandler, late of both Saturday Night Live and a promising dramatic turn with director Paul Thomas Anderson (which apparently led nowhere special), gets his big queasy scene in Click, and it's a doozy all right. Having fast-forwarded through the best parts of his own life thanks to a magical, universal remote control, courtesy of Bed Bath & Beyond's queerest employee, Morty (Walken, who to no one's surprise heads the "Beyond" department), Sandler's rat-racing architect, Michael Newman, withered by age and regret, literally crawls through a driving rainstorm toward his forgotten family, dying all the way and desperate for one final connection. The whole sequence, grimmer than an empty mailbox on Father's Day in hell, is calculated to badger the tears from your eyes, and it almost does. But what got to me wasn't the character's predicament – I haven't forgotten George Bailey's Wonderful Life lessons anymore than you have – but the sheer gall of the filmmakers and star who, by this point in the film, have managed to turn a splendid (if obvious) storyline into something that feels as phony as a prefab cardboard casket. (There is one momentary burst of gravitas-shattering anti-hilarity in this scene, but it barely survives the ensuing pathos.) I kept hoping Walken would suddenly appear and, I dunno, garble out some non-sequitur from The Deer Hunter that'd spark anything, no matter how bizarre, that might ignite the surrealist vibe Click could've, should've had. No such luck. Written by Sandler's stable of former SNL scribes and directed by Waterboy's Coraci, Click, with its melodramatic "family first" message, evokes depressingly by-the-numbers emotionalism: It's a message movie whose real message isn't "Stop and Smell the Roses, Jackass," but "How to Manipulate the Audience in 12 E-Z Steps." (There's also an undercurrent of xenophobic crassness aimed at both Middle Eastern and Japanese cultures that's included for no apparent reason.) Director Frank Darabont learned the hard way about the perils of tinkering with Hollywood's classic morality plays in The Majestic, which top-billed another manic comic – Jim Carrey – and ended up doing no one any favors. The same applies here. Sandler is a post-Catskills gold mine of potential, he always has been, and when he's willing to break with tradition (à la Punch-Drunk Love), he's downright revelatory. Not this time, though. This time he's just dying.

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Click, Frank Coraci, Adam Sandler, Kate Beckinsale, Christopher Walken, David Hasselhoff, Henry Winkler, Julie Kavner, Sean Astin, Joseph Castanon, Tatum McCann

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