Before I get too serious, a fact (and maybe a heads-up): You’ll never take the adolescent out of an Adam Sandler character. He may be playing “dad” now, not Billy Madison (kid trapped in adult body and back in grade school), but, in just about any script he picks up, there’s still plenty of room for the kind of jokes commonplace in male dorms across the country.
But that’s only to keep things from getting too deep…or at least from staying there for too long.
Click is a parable of sorts, with irresistible characters played by Christopher Walken, David Hasselhoff, and Henry Winkler (though one often wonders if a Christopher Walken is “playing” a character or just is one). Call Walken Virgil from Bed, Bath, and Way Beyond.
In Click, Sandler’s Michael is an architect working for a lout of a boss, played by the Knight Rider. He’s working “his ass off” to provide for his family and is losing them in the process. Or so the universal remote shows him in graphic and painful detail by skipping to scenes in his life he’d prefer not to watch.
Again, without getting too serious: Imagine right now your life went on autopilot. Your trying-to-get-through-the-day reflexes, choices, attitudes — maybe pick one of your worst days — become the compass for all your future choices, stored in the memory of your remote-turned-autopilot. And all of a sudden, that’s how you’re clicking through life.
Oops. Big oops.
That’s essentially the plotline of Click. Michael goes to Bed, Bath, and Beyond for a universal remote so he doesn’t have tear the house apart every time he goes from TV to DVD to garage. And there Christopher Walken gives him a universal remote all right.
In Spanglish, and now Click, Sandler shows off just enough of his dramatic ability while still keeping it real — delivering what Little Nicky fans (they do exist) expect, what most casual Friday-and-Saturday-night moviegoers are comfortable with. But there’s no escaping where the heart of these movies are: It’s about getting some laughs, of course. But family and fatherhood are what they’re about.
It’s not an original theme or breaking news. But it’s real and important and not a bad message to get while laughing off some steam. And it’s one that’s relevant to a lot of us personally, and to all of us culturally.
If I were an objective reviewer, I might complain that Click is uneven — that it bounces from heartfelt emotion to juvenile humor. No doubt I’d have other complaints too (just check some of the major papers and reviewers if you’re looking for them). But I’m not going to pretend to be an objective reviewer. (Full disclosure: I always get a kick out of Sandler; if I had listened to none of the dialogue, the movie would have had me at its Tears-for-Fears/Cranberries soundtrack; and I have good friends I think the world of at his production company, Happy Madison.) But if I were an objective reviewer, I might miss something pretty big.
No one in Click is going to get an Oscar. But I don’t think Adam Sandler, Christopher Walken, David Hasselhoff, Henry Winkler, or anyone else involved will be disappointed with that. Who cares, anyway? With Click, they’ve achieved something much better.
What if I’m a regular Joe or Jane son or daughter who would give anything to be able to relive that last moment together with her Dad, the one that she had no idea would be the last? What if I know that I’d probably — just as Michael does — take that remote and rewind and pause and play and rewind and pause and play again and never want to let that moment — or my father — go? If I’m that person, Click clicks.
And I suspect something will click even more for a son who lost his father somewhere along the way. Because he’ll cry just a little (or more than a little, but he’ll never tell you that) in that dark theater, but then he’ll get to laugh again at a ridiculous joke before the show’s over — and so it’s all cool.
That’s an all-American movie if I’ve ever seen one. Click hits a deep truth, but then reminds you you’re just at the movies by the time the lights are about to come back on.
Then Click watchers get up and return to the routine of trying to show gratitude and love to those dear to them while trying to make ends meet. But you do so with a reminder of what it’s all about, served up in a way that you also enjoyed getting, in the Adam Sandler, Regular Guy, No Preaching Zone.
– Kathryn Jean Lopez is the editor of National Review Online.