In “Click,” Adam Sandler plays a middle-class workaholic who fast-forwards through his life with a magical remote control. At the push of a button, it can mute his hectoring wife, skip past morning gridlock and exhume the hokey, homespun spirit of Frank Capra. Or something that feels like it.
If you can stand the George Bailey routine — and Sandler, bless him, lays it on thick — it makes for a fine show. Quite ingeniously, director Frank Coraci (“The Wedding Singer”) has married the feel-good family melodrama with Sandler’s usual brand of lowbrow-loser humor to create something that, if not timeless, is at least roundly, raucously entertaining.
Sandler (“The Waterboy”) plays Michael Newman, the kind of on-the-ropes American dad who — until recently, it seems — was the exclusive cinematic domain of Tim Allen. With an unfinished treehouse in the backyard, work piling up at his architectural firm and a wife (Kate Beckinsale from “Underworld”) at the end of her rope, Newman finds that he doesn’t have enough time to be the perfect father and the perfect employee. “Everything I do, I disappoint somebody,” he fumes between mouthfuls of junk food.
Fed up with the family’s chaotic remote control situation — instead of turning on the TV, he clicks on the ceiling fan — Newman storms out into the night and wanders into a Bed, Bath and Beyond (now the pre-eminent symbol of male emasculation, thanks to Will Ferrell’s line in “Old School”). The beds and baths don’t interest Newman much, but the “Beyond” section — tucked away at the back of the store, like the old Chinese herb shop of fantasy tradition — seems to hold promise. Behind a door and down a dark hallway, Newman finds Morty (Christopher Walken, in another hilarious spectacle of self-parody), a genial inventor type in a silly bow tie who offers him the very latest in universal remote control technology: “A remote to control your universe.”
Naturally, the device works better than Newman anticipates. Now he can skip past those pesky arguments with his wife, skip Sunday dinner with his parents (played by Henry Winkler and raspy “Simpsons” mainstay Julie Kavner) and leave himself with enough energy to finish a proposal for his ingrate of a boss (David Hasselhoff, more self-parody). Interestingly, the firm’s clientele is composed solely of racial stereotypes, including a bootie-obsessed Arab sheik (Rob Schneider, in an uncredited cameo).
Eventually, the device takes notes of Newman’s habits — he even skips past work, letting a “automatic pilot” version of himself expend the elbow grease — and acts on its own accord, depriving him of years and decades of his life. Before he knows it, Newman is middle-aged, his marriage in shambles, his paternal wonder years lost.
Despite its utterly saccharine method, ‘‘Click’’ is strangely touching. Past transgressions aside, Sandler has evolved nicely as a mouthpiece of male American angst, giving arguably his most endearing performance to date. Hey, it beats Tim Allen.
>> Rated PG-13 (profanity, crude and sex-related humor and some drug
>> references), 105 minutes. Grade: B-