'Click' pushes all the right buttons

Dozens of classic movies and books, including Frank Capra's "It's a Wonderful Life" and Charles Dickens's "A Christmas Carol," tell stories of wayward men who are forced to stand back and observe their own lives from the outside. In order for the protagonist to reevaluate how past decisions affect the past, present, and future, these supernatural tales all rely on a dramatic device, such as the introduction of a guardian angel. "Click," the new Adam Sandler comedy, just uses a device: a remote control.

It's no ordinary remote, of course, and its creator, Morty, played by Christopher Walken, turns out to be an angel of sorts. Sandler's character, Michael Newman, is given the magical gadget when he visits a retail chain to buy a universal remote control. To Michael's delight, he discovers that the remote controls his universe. He can adjust the volume of his dog's bark. He can rewind to happy moments. He can use the FFWD button to bypass arguments with his nagging wife (Kate Beckinsale) whose brow gets a Klingon-like furrow whenever her husband pays more attention to his work than his family.

Pretty soon the comedy is clocking an impressive laugh-to-minute ratio as Michael finds ever more ways to avoid unpleasant aspects of life. Much of the humor is below the belt – though David Hasselhoff's chest hair has a starring role as its own sight gag – but the jokes are often inventive and unexpected.

If you've seen other movies in the genre, such as "Defending Your Life" and "Bruce Almighty," you know that Life Lessons loom for the increasingly tubby and schlubby hubby. The remote control takes on a life of its own, hurtling Michael 20 years into the future where his behavior has divided his family.

"Click" ventures into unexpectedly pensive territory and even becomes emotional. (That word has never before been used in conjunction with an Adam Sandler comedy.) Sandler, usually a callow actor, has never been less remote. Grade: B+

PG-13 for language, crude humor, and drug references.

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