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June 21-27, 2006

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Gorilla at Large

'Click': In the year 2525, will Adam Sandler still be alive?

By Richard von Busack

PISSED OFF at electronic hardware that dares to disobey him, suburban dad Michael Newman (Adam Sandler) drives out to a Bed Bath and Beyond to buy a universal remote control. In one corner of the store, he finds a mad scientist named Morty—a bow-tie and basketball shoes type, played by the renowned beloved Sir Lord Baron Christopher Walken. Morty hands Michael an experimental wand that will control his life. Now he can fast-forward through commuting time, mute the conversation in duty dinners with his family and speed through tedious foreplay with his wife, Donna (Kate Beckinsale, never worse). But Morty, who hints, "You know who I am," has a sinister purpose in getting Michael to erase the slow parts of his existence.

The gimmick comedy—a Twilight Zone episode really—doesn't reveal any hidden kicks. Director Frank Coraci evinces no sense for the common touch. Michael is supposed to be a wage shlub, but they have to make him an architect in a skyscraper. On the broken promise of a promotion, Michael brings home a pair of very expensive bikes for his children. The plot treats it like he's put the Hope Diamond in escrow, and he has to take the bikes back to the store. In an ordinary film, you would feel sorry for the kids who lose their bikes, but these two kids are so interchangeable they sleep in beds with their names above them, probably so Coraci could tell who was whom.

Click is Sandler's latest attempt to spread out his appeal beyond the usual crowd of young males. The strategy probably won't work. What's in it for women? Beckinsale's mom has two speeds—disgruntled and lecherous. To the teaspoonful of It's a Wonderful Life, Sandler adds about a gallon of his patented essence of white-guy grudge.

Jerry Lewis' "monkey" character concealed a bitter grievance that came out in times of stress. Legends of "Scary Jerry"—of those incidents when the monkey would be replaced by an angry gorilla—remind us of the fury in a laugh-maker's heart. Sandler, the most slavish Lewis imitator since Sammy Petrillo, has the same Jersey-fed wrath that kept Lewis going. In him, the gorilla is closer to the surface. There is resentment in his comedy that borders on racism and sexism. Women: the mouth won't stop. Moms: they castrate ya by reminding everyone how small your dick was when you were born. Gibbering Arabs, sinister Japanese—eh, they'd rather be at TGIF's doing Jello shots or watching a wet-T-shirt contest. As for the possibilities of cinema: why do you think Michael named his dog "Sundance"?

It's more of the same, then. Sandler is most himself when he deliberately runs over a child's toy or sets a boy up to get hit in the face with a baseball. Walken gives the film a boost every time he shows his goony-bird face, but he's lost in the ozone. We'd love to join him there, but we're stuck with a cranky dad just like the one the 12-to-24-year-olds went to the movies to escape.

Movie TimesClick (PG-13; 98 min.), directed by Frank Coraci, written by Steve Koren and Mark O'Keefe, photographed by Dean Semler and starring Adam Sandler, Kate Beckinsale and Christopher Walken, plays everywhere.

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