must be something else on: Sandler in Click.
Not a Wonderful Life
by Frank Coraci
Adam Sandler is not the most annoying comic actor in Hollywood.
Not by a long shot. In his odd way, Sandler has been branching
out in interesting, if not always successful, films over the
last half-decade—and his next picture, believe it or not,
is a post-9/11 drama.
continues this generally promising trajectory. Sandler revisits
his trademark über-obnoxious persona, putting the character
into a high-pressure work-and-family context that makes for
some entertaining, even startling moments. It’s still a failure,
however, because he again hired Frank Coraci, director of
his earlier hits The Waterboy and The Wedding Singer.
What was needed instead was a strong personality to tell Sandler
when not to add that extra fart joke—or that one more
heavy-handed scene intended to jerk tears from the audience.
Sandler is Michael Newman, an ambitious young architect with,
on the one hand, an idiot boss (a pleasingly oily David Hasselhoff),
and, on the other, a great wife (the admittedly too-hot-for-Sandler’s-character
Kate Beckinsale) and kids. The familiar joke is that Michael
spends most of his time pleasing the boss and neglecting the
family. He’s angry, miserable and completely unaware just
how personally responsible he is for his own anger and misery.
It’s a lot of fun watching him suffer. And, when a mysterious
inventor named Morty (Christopher Walken at his loopiest)
gives Michael a new kind of remote-control device that allows
him to access his life as if it were a DVD (complete with
commentary track by James Earl Jones), it’s a lot of fun watching
him make everyone else suffer.
This takes up the first half of the picture. We know that
there’s a lesson coming, but it’s hard to be prepared for
the syrupy moralizing of the film’s endless second half. There’s
a decent idea behind Michael’s downfall, as the “universal
remote” learns from his bad behavior and incorporates his
destructive habits as automatic features; Michael’s fondness
for fast-forwarding becomes a nightmarish inevitability, as
he loses months, even years of his life. Unfortunately, though
time goes quickly for the film’s characters, it slows to a
crawl for the audience.
The filmmakers apparently didn’t realize that, when it comes
to doling out Important Life Lessons, less is more. The film
drones on and on, mixing Sandler’s shtick with tears and woe.
Precious screen time is wasted, too, on fetishizing the high-tech
gizmos of the future. Even Walken becomes annoying; Morty—who
never ages or changes—is always around to provide a pithy
observation. By the time “Morty” reveals who he really is,
the audience has already figured it out.
The ultimate problem is not that we can see the ending of
Click coming a mile away; it’s that it takes so damn
long to get there.
and, Well . . .
by Ralph Arlyck
In 1966, Ralph Arlyck made a student film about the 4-year-old
son of the couple who lived above him in San Francisco’s Haight
Ashbury district. The couple, the Farrells, were deeply involved
in the city’s counterculture, and their son, Sean, was precociously
familiar with its trappings. The 15-minute movie depicted
a long-haired kid scampering barefoot and unattended through
the hippie crowds of the Haight and discussing the grass he’d
smoked, the busts that he’d witnessed and the speed freaks
with whom he’d shared his family’s apartment. The film was
a festival success both in America and abroad (French auteur
Francois Truffaut wrote a personal note to Arlyck congratulating
him on the work), and it was even given a small theatrical
release. To the director’s chagrin, however, the filmic Sean
soon became an icon of a generation gone wrong and irresponsible,
a generation whose naive utopian impulses left it incapable
of caring for its own. As the title would suggest, Following
Sean is something of a sequel. But it’s also more and
After three decades, Arlyck returned to California, which
he left in 1970, to find the adult Sean Farrell; Following
Sean does present that reunion. Arlyck also catches up
with Sean’s parents, grandparents and other members of his
extended family. But rather than a simple, gossipy “Where
Are They Now”-style update, what Arlyck offers up is a kind
of rumination on family and fate. It’s a soft-spoken projection
of the universal question, “How did I get here?”
Arlyck interweaves and overlaps the various Farrells’ backstories
with glimpses of his own life: the evolution of his marriage,
the development of his career, the maturation of his own two
sons, the aging of his parents. It’s a somewhat sloppy, haphazard
structure but it works well with this material. Arlyck isn’t
inclined, it seems, to present a linear, mathematical explanation
for Sean’s—or any other character’s—life. He offers up present
detail, then drops back for historical perspective, then veers
off into another life for congruence or contrast, then adds
a new detail, and so on. This new movie, which was filmed
over four years, is a cumulative and unpredictable process.
There are themes—happiness vs. responsibility, freedom vs.
security, individualism vs. community—but no more point, really,
than there is in any life.
For happy-ever-after addicts, Following Sean may be
frustratingly inconclusive. The inevitable discovery that
hippie-spawn Sean is trying to make the best of it, trying
to make a buck, trying to balance personal aspirations and
the practical exigencies of day-to-day living, trying to carve
out a sustainable, satisfying place for himself may seem less
than grandly cinematic. For others it will not only make perfect
sense, it will be profoundly beautiful and moving—and true.