Posted on June 21, 2006 at 12:16 pmB-
|Lowest Recommended Age:
|Rated PG-13 for language, crude and sex-related humor, and some drug references.
|Very strong language for a PG-13 including profanity used by children, f-word
|Cigar smoking, drug jokes
|Comic peril, serious illness, sad death
|Date Released to Theaters:
|Date Released to DVD:
Like Tom Cruise, Adam Sandler has based his career on playing shallow, callow boy-men who learn painful for him/humorous for us lessons about the importance of growing up. Those stories have enduring appeal on two levels. First, we get the pleasure of seeing someone who can be irresponsible and child-like, acting out a fantasy of superego-less freedom. And second, we get the reassuring conclusion to make us feel better about not having that freedom anymore. This is especially appealing to teenagers, who are at the brink of this transition.
This film is something of a transition for Sandler. He’s too old and beefy to play the boy-man who learns about romantic love as comedy, so here he plays architect Michael Newman, who is already married to Donna (Kate Beckinsale) and father of two young children. He is under a lot of pressure at work and feels overwhelmed. At Bed Bath and Beyond he enters a door marked “Way Beyond” and meets Morty (Christopher Walken), who gives him a “universal remote.” It can put real life on pause, mute, or fast forward. Michael can even access a commentary track and the movie’s best surprise is the identity of the narrator.
At first, he is delighted. He fast-forwards through a fight with Donna and mutes the dog. But then he finds out that the remote anticipates what he will select based on his past choices. Who can control the remote control?
The movie goes from silly (if often crude and discomfitingly cruel) to surprisingly serious, swelling strings and deathbed regrets, right up to the edge of maudlin. But Sandler keeps us rooting for Michael and Donna, in part because it is clear that Michael always loves his family and because it is clear that they always love him. There were times when I wanted a universal remote to hit “next chapter” to skip through repeated jokes about a dog having sex with a stuffed animal or children using four-letter words. The movie is too long. Sandler’s slacker passive agression was never appealing and get harder to take with each new iteration. But there are moments when the conclusion is genuinely affecting. It isn’t only Sandler’s characters that are growing up. I just wish we could hit fast-forward to move him there a little sooner.
Parents should know that, as often happens, the MPAA ratings board permits much more explicit sexual material in a PG-13 comedy than they would in a PG-13 drama. There are sexual references, crude jokes, and sexual situations that are in shadow but still fairly explicit, with post-sex discussion of whether it was satisfying for the woman and a running joke about a dog attempting to have sex with a stuffed animal (which, weirdly, Donna finds to be a turn-on). There are jokes about sexual harassment,small genitals, and repeated adultery. Characters use many four-letter words, and use of those words by children is intended to be humorous. A character smokes a cigar and there are some drug jokes. Characters eat a lot of junk food. There are serious illnesses, sad deaths and unhappy family situations, including divorce.
Families who see this movie should talk about what they would do with a “universal remote.” They should talk about times when they felt conflicts between work or school and family obligations and how they handled them.
Families who enjoy this movie will enjoy Sandler’s other films, including Big Daddy and The Wedding Singer. And they will enjoy other fantasies about people who realize the importance of family, from classics like A Christmas Carol and It’s a Wonderful Life to Multiplicity, Bruce Almighty, and The Family Man.