Michael Newman, an architect, is married to Donna and has two children, Ben and Samantha. Michael is bullied by his overbearing boss, John Ammer, and often chooses work over family. Michael visits the retail store Bed Bath & Beyond to buy a universal remote control. He stumbles around the various departments before falling asleep. Upon waking, a man named Morty offers Michael a free remote but warns it can never be returned.
Learning to use the remote, Michael finds that it can control reality much like a television. He uses it to his advantage at work but also uses it to fast-forward past illness or use “picture-in-picture”, concentrating on a baseball game while Donna nags him. Morty tells Michael that during these times, his body is on “auto-pilot”, going through his motions of everyday life while his mind skips ahead.
Michael is unable to buy bicycles for his children, but knowing that Ammer plans to promote him to a partnership, he uses the remote to skip to the promotion. He is shocked to find that a year has passed. During that time, he and Donna have entered marriage counseling, his children have grown out of their desire for bicycles, and the family dog has died. The remote, having learned his preferences, starts time-skipping in response to casual wishes Michael makes. Michael attempts to discard or destroy the remote, but it reappears in his hands shortly after each attempt, and Morty refuses to take it back.
At work, Ammer tells Michael he plans on retiring, which would make Michael the new head of the International Division. When Michael presses the subject of his promotion, Ammer tells him that, in time, he could be promoted to CEO, which causes the remote to instantly fast-forward ten years into the future. While Michael is wealthy, he has become morbidly obese and Donna has divorced him. He returns home to find Ben and Samantha have both become moody teenagers. He argues with Donna and new husband Bill, which causes their family dog to jump on Michael, knocking him into a coma. The remote time-skips six years to when Michael wakes, no longer obese, having undergone liposuction to save his life as a part of his cancer treatment and subsequent heart attack. A full-grown Ben is now a partner at the firm, however Michael learns his father Ted has died of old age.
While Michael is mourning his father, Morty reappears. Michael uses the remote to go to Ted’s deathbed, but it fails. Morty explains the remote only replays events in his life where he was present, and his father’s last hour was not one of them. Michael uses the remote to see when he last saw his father, when Michael rebuffed his father’s offer to take him and Ben out to dinner. Michael visits his father’s grave. Morty appears and reveals to Michael that he is the Angel of Death. Overcome with guilt and shame, Michael asks to go to a “good place”, whereupon the remote fast-forwards him several more years in the future to Ben’s wedding. Michael has a second heart attack when Samantha calls Bill her dad. When he wakes in the hospital later that night, he finds his family there, including Ben. Ben skipped his honeymoon to help fix issues with the firm. Michael, fearing that his son will make the same mistakes he made, implores him not to ignore his wife, but a nurse makes Ben and Samantha leave. Michael gathers his last bit of strength to follow them out of the hospital. He collapses and his family rushes to his aid. Michael tells Ben to always put family first and assures his family that he still loves them. He dies and Morty arrives to take Michael.
Michael wakes in Bed Bath & Beyond and assumes that he was dreaming. He races to his family to make up for the mistakes he made with the remote and fulfills his promise to spend the 4th of July with them. He finds the remote on the counter with a note from Morty, reading “Good guys need a break”. Michael considers what to do for a moment before throwing the remote in the trash, and is overjoyed when it does not reappear in his hand.
Got on with a little more painting. I’m trying to be patient, a title at a time, but if I put on my headphones, then the time just slips away.
Today’s in the UK was Father’s Day. I didn’t get to see mine, but we had a lovely chat. And a joint call with my dad and my sisters.