Jun 28, 2006 at 12:00 am

Of the many depressing things we learn about the future in the new fantasy comedy Click, the worst is that whiny '90s Irish rock band the Cranberries are still around in 2025. Late in the film, we see lead singer Dolores O'Riordan — who magically hasn't aged at all — warbling her insipid hit "Linger" at a wedding. Adam Sandler always manages to get shout-outs to his favorite bands into his Happy Madison productions, but this is a bit much.

Click is Sandler's first real attempt at a family film — a time-travel family film at that. On the surface, it's the softest, mildest thing he's ever done, but it's still as crude and mean-spirited as Little Nicky or The Longest Yard. The comedian's patented insult humor — directed as usual at women, Asians, gays, children and anyone even slightly overweight — is in full force here, only less funny and more out-of-place than ever. Characters exist just to be ridiculed by Sandler; after the initial zinger, some drop off screen, never to be seen or mentioned again.

The film is high-concept Hollywood screenwriting at its least inspired. Sandler plays Michael Newman, a haggard suburban dad who can't juggle his wisecracking kids, his starved-for-attention wife (Kate Beckinsale) and his high-pressure architecture job. A trip to the back room of Bed, Bath and Beyond (the aisle marked "Beyond," of course) leads him to a crackpot inventor (Christopher Walken) with a "universal" remote control, one that allows Michael to pause, rewind and fast-forward his life as it's happening. Before long, he's jumping ahead to his big promotion, his son's wedding and a whole lot of other premonitions he'd rather not see.

It may sound like Back to the Future 2, but Click is more like a witless remake of A Christmas Carol. As Michael fast-forwards into the future, he finds himself becoming a loveless old scrooge who wishes he had lived by the cliché "family comes first." For a time-travel fantasy, it's not fun at all. As the years go on, it becomes more and more of a chore to slog through the morose, depressing details of Michael's life. When the movie takes a random, unexpected stab at being a tear-jerker, it falls flat on its face.

Sandler and his usual cronies — director Frank Coraci (The Waterboy, The Wedding Singer), cameo whore Rob Schneider — never capitalize on their premise; obvious plot setups lead nowhere. Why doesn't Michael ever think to rewind his life to fix his mistakes at work? Why does the remote add narration to his life? Why does Beckinsale's "New Yawk" accent keep disappearing? Sandler is awful with kids, and there's no chemistry between any of the actors, except for Walken, of course, who creates his own weird chemistry all by himself. Aside from Walken, everything in Click is as flat as a third-rate sitcom. For a movie about a magical remote control, that seems somehow fitting.

Michael Hastings writes about film for Metro Times. Send comments to [email protected].