Reign Over Me

Reign Over Me is the story of two estranged friends reuniting. Adam Sandler plays Charlie Fineman. Charlie is seriously grief stricken man dealing with fallout of losing his entire family in the 911 attacks. It has been five years since the lost of his wife and three daughters. Don Cheadle plays Alan Johnson, Charlie’s old college room-mate. They happen to reunite randomly and begin to rekindle their friendship.

What follows is a story that does its absolute best to honest. It’s a story of growth and discovery in the face of immeasurable lost. It doesn’t hit on every note, it doesn’t see the forest for the trees. It has a bigger picture, but kind of stumbles over itself to get there.

It doesn’t take long to see just how far gone Charlie is. He has quit his job as a dentist and now spends his days drinking, playing video games, remodelling his kitchen. The most apparent bit comes from his headphones. He drowns himself in music, he does it as to means of escaping from the voice of others and himself. It almost throws you off because your literally waiting for the gag. It’s Adam Sandler, there has to be a gag coming and it never quite does. You feel sorry for his lost through out the whole film. Even moments when he is joking, you know its only because he is desperately trying not to go to a bad place mentally.

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Speaking of mentally, I have to give Mike Binder alot of credit. Before, I write a review I tend to read several reviews. Kind of give myself a litmus test on what I feel about the movie. None of the reviews I read about Reign Over Me comment on how Mike Binder does absolutely nothing to give us a solid picture of Charlie’s family. There are no flashbacks, no montages. We don’t learn their names until half way through the movie. You only get a glimpse of a picture in the ending arc, which is probably the most powerful and depressing part of the film. We pretty much see Charlie in one state, the broken one. We don’t know what Charlie was like other than through hear-say before the tragedy. I found this to be a very powerful technique because I filled in the holes myself. Based on how low he seemed to me: I imaged who he might have been, what his family looked like, how big were they, etc. This is where the casting of Sandler goes to another level. We have this impression of him being a vibrant guy, he naturally helps us fill this void. I believe the original screen play was written for Tom Cruise and while Cruise is a better dramatic actor. I don’t think this effect would have been as strong.

When you mention the name Adam Sandler, you’ll probably get a few reactions. If your old enough you remember stuff like Happy Gilmore, Big Daddy, Billy Madison and likely his best work The Wedding Singer. If your younger you may remember stuff like Grown Ups, That’s My Boy and most unfortunately Jack & Jill. We all know the comedic talent that his is, but every now and then he takes on a dramatic role. Most of which have been comedic-dramas (Dramedies) like Spanglish and Punch-Drunk Love. In this film he leaves comedy at the front door. Mike Binder believed Adam Sandler had a deep dramatic skill set and he gave him the vehicle to prove it with this film. He does a very admirable job portraying Charlie. Is it perfect and worth of award nominations? Nope. It is not typical and deserves some praise. Don Cheadle does what he normally does, which is take normal roles and inject them with interesting. Alan Johnson is a typical character, successful but bored in his contentment. He isn’t really unhappy with his family and his job is mostly satisfying. He is just looking for something else to give him a thrill. Charlie becomes Alan’s pet project, helping Charlie is a means to help himself at the same time. Its a furlough from what he considers to be a lull in his normal day life. Their on screen chemistry feels great is the highlight of the film as it should be.

Not to be out done, as I mentioned before the movie does tend to trip over itself. The most glaring is the use of supporting characters. Saffron Burrows plays a role that is well played on her part but completely irrelevant to the story, the movie wouldn’t miss a beat if you completely deleted all her scenes. Jada Pinkett Smith is Alan’s wife and she doesn’t have much to work with. Her most relevant scene has to do with Burrows character and like I just said, we could have done with her. Finally we have Liv Tyler who plays Charlie’s eventual psychologist. She plays the part fine, but Alan does most of the work in Charlie’s slow and gruelling rehab. In a story where the main characters are obviously dealing with alot of issues, I expected the psychologist to play a bigger role. Also, in a so good it’s bad kind of thing. Donald Sutherland plays a judge at the end of the film and with only a few minutes of screen time almost steals the show.

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Saffron, We didn’t need you this time around, but your never bad on the eyes

In the end, the movie does more right than wrong. Sandler and Cheadle are a pleasure to watch on screen, and most importantly the pain is believable. I’m not saying this movie is a 2 hour romp through pain and misery. It just confronts it in an ideal way, that shows growth through both the main characters. Alan ask Charlie “Hey man, are you going to be okay? Are you going to make it” … Charlie says.. “I’m more worried about you”. A true bro moment if I ever saw one.

Ranking : B

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