ClickThere’s a moment in this Adam Sandler dramedy when his titular character, exhausted and at his wit’s end, looks to the sky and asks for a break.  Just one.  Because his life is just too difficult.  You see, his life is so awful that his incredible job, multi-story suburban house, impossibly hot wife, near-perfect kids who always get along and just love to color pictures together, loyal dog, and multitude of electronics, clothes, furniture, and other such possessions are just too much for him to bear.  No, Michael Newman (Sandler) decides he’s had it up to here with all his modern conveniences and comfortable life because it’s just too overwhelming and oh-so-stressful.  So how to fix it?  Of course the only answer is to buy even more crap to throw on the pile, in the form of a universal remote that will finally allow him to get a handle on his television, DVD player, satellite TV, and toy helicopters that are just plaguing his enviable first-world life.

Maybe it’s just me, but I can hardly get past the exposition of a movie that asks me to identify with characters like this.  They live lives that are so contrived, so perfect, that when the inevitable single problem crops up that they just can’t deal with, my brain just checks out.  Click certainly isn’t the first movie to be guilty of this, but it is the most recent one I have watched.  And this phenomenon gets under my skin every time.

If you’re an Adam Sandler fan, you’ll probably find a lot to like here: sophomoric jokes, kids using bad language (gee, an eight-year-old said a swear word…it’s funny!), empty-headed women with no inherent worth or ambition and who exist solely to support the childlike men in their lives…basically standard Hollywood fare.  Not that I’m jaded or anything, it’s just that this movie brings nothing new to the table except for a wild-haired Christopher Walken who steals every scene he is in.

Click-Kate Beckinsale

Yup, Michael Newman sure does have it rough.

The remote that Newman ends up buying from Bed Bath and Beyond, in what is one of the most shameless examples of product placement ever committed to celluloid: after driving past a Best Buy and Target, both of which are closed, he ends up at BB&B where he spends several minutes admiring the aisles filled with products gallantly catering to suburban consumerism before walking down a hallway simply labeled “Beyond.” It’s as if the film itself is interrupted by a lengthy commercial for the strip-mall purveyor of fluffy towels and soda-makers. I understand that product placement is necessary in many cases to help finance modern films, but this was just ridiculous, and it exemplified the over-the-top nature of the entire movie. Soon enough Newman is standing in a warehouse with Walken, an eccentric character with a magical remote that allows the user to rewind, pause, mute, and fast-forward his or her way through life.

It’s the kind of gag that would have worked well in a five-minute Saturday Night Live sketch, but quickly wears thin here.  Watching Newman mute his ever-nagging wife is kind of funny once, but the joke goes on and on and on.  Fast-forwarding through awkward dinners, pausing his son’s backyard baseball game and re-aiming the ball so it smacks the annoying neighbor bully directly in the face…and this continues for pretty much the entire rest of the movie.  Oh sure there’s a moral lesson about spending time with family that’s laid on so thick at the end I could barely stop my eyes from rolling, but most of the film is about as boring and predictable as almost any other Sandler flick. Nothing new to see here, folks.  Move along.


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Grown Ups

I wonder at what age Adam Sandler will stop playing the same character we’ve seen for the last fifteen years.  While I’m not an anti-Sandler, I simply feel this disconnect with him these days, as if somehow his formula train has passed within the last few years and nobody told him.  Yet, Grown Ups proved to be one of his biggest box-office performers, which is shocking considering it’s his laziest film in a long time.  At 44 years old, the man knows his fan base, and they continue to support him making junk like this.  But watch them turn and abandon him when he dares to act in more ambitious projects that may not totally work (Spanglish, Funny People), but showcase him stepping out of his bubble.

Grown Ups could be the worst film of Sandler’s career.  The pitch is to throw a group of has-been comedians past their prime in a single frame to see what sticks.  In this experiment we have Sandler, Chris Rock, David Spade, Rob Schneider, and Kevin James.  If three of these five can’t sell tickets on their own, let’s throw all of them together.  The studio made a smart move, as the writers need not provide any material, only to watch the dollars pour in.  Don’t get me wrong, I’ve hated some of Sandler’s other efforts more than this (I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry, You Don’t Mess with the Zohan), but Grown Ups surely tested my endurance for quick-buck filmmaking with a Couples Retreat or Ocean’s Twelve approach of throwing a group of name-actors together and producing a film about them simply hanging out.

In Grown Ups, Sandler has the lead role, the wealthiest and most successful of the bunch, married to a Latin fashion designer played by Salma Hayek.  This of course fits in with all of Sandler’s other films—as his scuzzy, sarcastic and self-absorbed characters have a tag-along wife suited for a Miss America contest.  He’s been significant other to (on film) the likes of Kate Beckinsale, Marisa Tomei, Courteney Cox-Arquette, Drew Barrymore, Winona Ryder, and Bridgette Wilson among others.  And also in all or at least most of these films, the writing must address why this gorgeous woman would be attracted to Sandler’s character.  I’ve always found this footnote of Sandler’s work to be more entertaining than the work itself.

Nonetheless, I need to return to the plot.  Sandler and his family of luxury head off to the funeral of an elementary school basketball coach from Sandler’s youth.  Back in good ol’ 1978, this coach led Sandler, James, Rock, Schneider and Spade to a major championship victory game (a game won on a bad call by the ref).  All the boys reunite for this event.  Sandler delivers a eulogy (as if this coach has zero family present whatsoever), while Schneider performs an outlandish opera piece that is inevitably mocked by his buddy listeners.

Following the funeral, the boys and their families head off to a cabin for the weekend.  Sandler thinks his two snotty brat sons could use some time away from maid-service and M-rated videogames.  Kevin James and his wife, played by Maria Bello (has she really been reduced to this?), are having intimacy problems.  She also still breast-feeds her ’48-month-old’ son.  Chris Rock is husband to his working wife, while he stays home to cook and manage the house.  He also puts up with his live-in mother-in-law who believes him to be wasted space.  Rob Schneider wears a ridiculous hair-piece and makes out with his wife in public (she also happens to be in her 70’s).  That leaves us with David Spade, a loner womanizer who becomes entranced by 2 of Schneider’s 3 daughters that join the group at the cabin (supermodel-looking 20-year-olds, mind you).

The quirks of each character as described above spell out the ongoing ‘jokes’ that proceed through 105 minutes of spellbinding stupidity.  Bello breast feeds her 4-year-old while the guys look on in amazement.  The old mother-in-law displays a nasty bunyon on her foot.  Schneider gets frisky with his old lady in-camera.  James takes and makes cracks about his weight.  Spade lays around naked.  Rock takes condescending insults from his wife.  The five middle-aged guys urinate in a public pool that turns the water navy blue.  And throughout most of the film, the five main actors dish out sarcasm to each other, as if someone forgot to bring the script to the set that day.  All of this adds up to these people learning a lesson about making time for and respecting one another.  How cute.

If I experienced one or two chuckles in this thing, they really have to be considered negligable in regard to the film’s complete laziness.  I will openly warrant several Sandler vehicles a pass, including: 50 First Dates, Anger Management, The Longest Yard, Click, The Wedding Singer, Big Daddy and probably more.  He’s a comic in his own league refusing to grow up.  That’s all fine and good, but don’t try to sell me a complete waste of time like Grown Ups.

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Funny People


Judd Apatow, with his mega reputation as the savior of comedy in the last few years, has his first misstep as a director. ‘Funny People’ is an odd comedy-drama that is  an overlong (an Apatow trademark) and mostly depressing look at a celebrity comedian’s life. Adam Sandler plays George Simmons, much like the star himself, a comedic actor with a lot crappy blockbusters on his resume who discovers he is dying from a form of lukemia. Simmons then decides to hire a struggling stand-up comedian (Seth Rogen) to work as a live-in assistant and writer for him. Midway through the film, Simmons finds out his experimental treatment on his disease has actually cured him, so he decides to seek out his former love interest (Leslie Mann), now married, and attempt to win her back.

At the point Sandler’s character thinks he’s going to win back his former love does ‘Funny People’ start to sink into a slump it can’t recover from. Otherwise, the first hour or so of the film actually works to Apatow’s credit. Sandler plays a disspirited, selfish character stuck in regret and despair. You don’t like or sympathize with George Simmons the entire film, and that’s a big problem.  I didn’t care about his impending death or his lost relationships.  Seth Rogen, Jonah Hill, Jason Schwartzman and many celebrity cameos are the saving graces of the film and provide a lot of the real genuine laughs and help this near 2 1/2 hour endeavor keep on moving.  Yes, 2 1/2 hours, a seriously long time to wade through a film about a main character that you don’t like. Unlike Mickey Rourke in ‘The Wrestler’ who also had a screwed-up life and torn relationships, you sympathized with the character. He played a man seeking redemption, but kept taking the wrong turns. Sandler plays a character that hates everyone about as much as he hates himself, and he continually uses people for his own benefit. The final hour of the movie introduces Leslie Mann, Sandler’s ex, as he travels with Seth Rogen to her suburb home. She’s stuck in a relationship with a cheating husband (Eric Bana) and two daughters. She wants out and back with Sandler, but everything gets complicated, leading to a lot of long, depressing scenes that seem out of left field for the movie.  The moral here, is that despite Simmons’ second chance at life and outlook that he can change for the better, the man will never find happiness because he will always be himself. It’s a long road to figure that out, and despite great performances from all the actors involved and some good scattered laughs, ‘Funny People’ is a mixed-bag that is too long and odd to recommend. It’s the mistake of an immensely talented filmmaker, so hopefully with his next feature he sticks to the lighter tones of what made ‘The 40-Year-Old Virgin’ and ‘Knocked Up’ comedy gold.

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