Thursday, June 22, 2006 03:52 pm
Another potentially good film ruined by juvenile humor
Michael Newman (Adam Sandler) feels that his life is nothing but a constant struggle leading nowhere, though he’s blessed with two wonderful, healthy kids and smart, resourceful wife Donna (Kate Beckinsale). As is the case in so many modern families, he finds that there simply isn’t enough time to meet the needs of his loved ones and succeed professionally as well. At work, Michael is fighting an uphill battle to get the recognition he deserves from his narcissistic boss, John Ammer (David Hasselhoff, in a wonderfully self-effacing turn). The solution to all of Michael’s problems falls into his lap at a Bed, Bath & Beyond store, when he stumbles through a door marked “way beyond” and meets Morty (Christopher Walken), a charming mad scientist who’s invented the answer to every modern dad’s problem: a true universal remote. This thing doesn’t just turn on the TV, DVD player, and stereo; it also has the power to mute a barking dog, fast-forward through life’s unpleasant moments, and even rewind to key parts in your life for a quick jog of the memory. Yep, Michael’s problems are solved, but there’s a catch: Once he starts to use it, he can never return the remote. Of course, he pays no mind to this warning — until he realizes, to his regret, the device is cheating him out of years of time with his family and causing him to miss many meaningful moments. This is all great fun for a while, and whenever Walken shows up onscreen, he delivers as he always does with his droll turn. What works best in the film are the serious scenes involving Michael and his family, especially when he comes to realize what a fool he’s been by being on autopilot through most of his life. His regret over neglecting his family is palpable, and a sequence in which he goes back to watch the last time he saw his father (Henry Winkler), an event he regrettably missed the first time around, is as moving as anything I’ve seen in a movie this year. However, along the way there are fart jokes, more than a few sequences devoted to lame physical comedy, and far too many shots of the family dog dry-humping an enormous stuffed animal. These scenes do nothing but undercut the genuine emotion that’s been so wonderfully crafted — and you’ll be wishing you had an all-powerful remote to fast-forward through this film.