Sometimes I think Adam Sandler wants to be Jim Carrey really badly. And if the awful Punch Drunk Love was his personal Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, then at least Click is killing two B’s with one S. Because it’s Liar, Liar meets Bruce Almighty, with a healthy dose of Nicolas Coppola’s The Family Man thrown in for the customary good measure. It’s A Wonderful Life, of course, is the mother lode.
Where James Stewart was visited by an angel called Clarence and Carrey was God for a spell courtesy of Morgan Freeman, Sandler stumbles across his own unlikely angel, Morty (Christopher Walken, sleepwalking), in the Beyond section of a familiar household goods store. Ignoring both the blatant Family Guy rip and the rather hefty clue in Morty’s name, Sandler is happy to take home his angel’s gift: a universal remote control that really does control the universe—or at least Sandler’s own little piece of it—with all the usual inevitable consequences.
When he set out to make his own Eternal Sunshine, Sandler forgot himself. Specifically, he forgot he’d already made that movie in a style that worked for him and with a co-star who brings out his very best. Both in 50 First Dates and the earlier Wedding Singer, Drew Barrymore and Sandler enjoyed a chemistry and a parity that went way beyond anything Sandler has managed without her. Barrymore, I’d argue, is the only leading lady in any Sandler movie who has actually developed her character beyond two very pretty dimensions. In Click, it’s the lovely Beckinsale’s turn to be under-utilised. Still, at least Sandler resisted the temptation to supersize her boobs.
It’s hard to argue with the moral of Click. Yes, family is important. Yes, life is short. And no, it’s not a good idea to cruise through it on auto-pilot. But none of this is exactly breaking news. And I’m not sure we really need to be patronised by a bunch of multi-millionaire film-makers whose lives have little to do with the humdrum existence of the bulk of their audience. Certainly not when they keep on telling us the same story over and over again. The only innovation here is that in Click, Sandler’s oft-repeated character actually starts out with the girl of his dreams. The rest of the story is the same-old schtick: Saul’s heading for Tarsus, pedal to the metal, until a dramatic catalyst shows him the true meaning of life.
While Click is competent and funnier than Sandler’s last Frank Capra rip-off, Mr Deeds, its joy is in the little things. And I’m not talking about Sandler’s comically small penis, but the casting, the running jokes, the product placement, and Rob Schneider’s Best Ever Performance.
On the one hand, the casting of David Hasselhoff is no more than we’d expect in these ironic and ennui-filled times. But on the other, it’s genuinely funny to watch him send himself up as Sandler’s shallow, sexist idiot of a boss. Even more so when you consider the possibility that The Hoff still doesn’t realise this is how half the world sees him. So are we laughing at the man who brought down the Berlin Wall? Or laughing with him? I don’t know, but it’s food for thought, mobsters, food for thought.
Beyond Hasselhoff, Click also boasts small but excellent performances from The Fonz and Brenda Morgenstern as Sandler’s parents; from Sam Gamgee in a Speedo; and from Jennifer Coolidge as both Beckinsale’s troubled friend and The Hoff’s love interest. Amusingly, to me at least, in TV’s Joey, Coolidge’s character is called Bobbie Morganstern. What are the chances? In Click Coolidge offers a neat mirror-image reflection of our hero. An unhappy figure of fun and contempt for pre-conversion Sandler, she bears him no kind of grudge when she subsequently marries his boss.
One of the things you have to admire about Sandler is his loyalty to his friends, which might also be construed as a need to stay within a particular comfort zone. Either way, he always finds a place for his old pal, the famously third-rate comic Rob Schneider. And Click is no exception. Except that Schneider’s customary cameo role is so well done that you don’t even notice it’s him—and that really is a compliment—until you’re listening to the accompanying commentary track. Not only is Schneider subdued and anonymous as the wealthy Arab Sheikh Prince Habibu, he’s also first-rate funny.
The commentary features Sandler himself, director Frank Coraci, executive producer Tim Herilhy, writer Steve Koren, and James Earl Jones. And, like all the additional features here, it’s a largely disappointing exercise. Doubly so when you rush off to check out the deleted scenes having heard Sandler promise to include both Schneider’s Prince Habibu table dance and footage of Beckinsale as Pocohontas. Neither promise is kept. However, the first of only four brief deleted scenes to make the cut does show Schneider giving his trademark Sandler line, as already seen in The Waterboy, Little Nicky, and The Longest Yard. You can do it, indeed.