Steve Coren and Mark O’keefe, the writers who brought us Bruce Almighty (and its forthcoming sequel, Evan Almighty), are certainly mining the, “You think you can do better?” vein for every last nugget. This time around, God is left out of the equation, and their central themes are plundered from a much-loved film classic (we won’t tell you which one, lest we give too much away). But when the initial shock at their boldness wears off, the conceit works a charm.
Sandler, who has for years now been whittling down the rough edges of his angry-young-man SNL comedy persona and pouring more mainstream pathos into his characters — with varying degrees of success — seems to have finally matured into a comfortable and reasonably consistent leading man. On a roll from 50 First Dates and the more subtle Spanglish (leaving aside The Longest Yard for now), he’s grown out of the slacker roles and into everyman territory, which serves him well here as Click turns from a broad comedy into something else. The silly, shouty Sandler is reined in a little too tightly in the not-quite-funny-enough first half, but the reasons for that restraint become clear when the film takes an emotional turn for the dramatic later on.
The now familiar faces of the Sandler supporting troupe — Henry Winkler, Sean Astin, and a thankfully brief cameo from Rob Schneider — are joined by some well-cast newbies: Jennifer Coolidge, David Hasselhoff and Christopher Walken (being none more Walken), all of whom go for broke with the small roles they are given. Special mention, however, goes to Kate Beckinsale as Michael’s long-suffering wife. She does a terrific job of making a potentially generic role credible and vivacious — and, it has to be said, looks amazing in a Native-American headdress.
The Wedding Singer and Waterboy director Frank Coraci makes a good fist of the demanding, overfilled script: too many plot threads (a glimpse of Michael’s future in which he and his son are overweight feels, inevitably, flabby) begin to stall the story at a point where it should be moving swiftly to its conclusion. But happily, when that finale arrives, it’s an impressive enough moment to justify the wait.