Review: Reign Over Me (2007)

For the record, I hate movies about September 11 and I hate Adam Sandler movies. I have had pretty bad experiences with both. (The worst six hours of my life just happens to be a bus ride with prepubescent boys with ONLY an Adam Sandler marathon for entertainment. But I digress.) That being said, I didn’t hate Reign Over Me, the story of two old friends who rekindle their friendship five years after one lost his entire family on 9/11.

Reign Over Me is the latest feature from writer-director Mike Binder. Like Binder’s past films, such as 2005’s The Upside of Anger, Reign Over Me is a drama centered on family, friendship, and those awkward moments that make life special.

Don Cheadle plays Alan Johnson, a successful New York City dentist whose seemingly perfect-life has become too mundane. By chance, he runs into his old college roommate Charlie Fineman (Adam Sandler), who is everything but fine.

Charlie, five years removed from the tragic deaths of his wife, three daughters, and even the family dog, rides around New York City on his motorized scooter. He has shut out everyone he ever cared for and his headphones act as a protective helmet, shielding him from his grief. When Alan reaches out to Charlie, their friendship provides a new sense of hope for both men.

The acting is what drives this film, mostly because other elements of Reign Over Me (the script, the editing etc.) are incredibly weak. Jada Pinkett Smith, Liv Tyler, Saffron Burrows, Donald Sutherland, Robert Klein, and Melina Dillon portray key supporting characters. But it is Cheadle and Sandler, whose exceptional performances often hold the film together.

Unfortunately, because Adam Sandler’s target audience is not Reign Over Me’s target audience and the audience that would see this movie would probably never be publicly seen publicly at any Adam Sandler movie, Sandler’s memorable performance is going to be forgotten as the year progresses.

Despite some minor flaws, Reign Over Me is a genuine and touching movie, proving that simplicity is often the best way to present life’s tragedies.

I guess what I should start saying now is that I usually hate movies about September 11th and I’ve gained a new appreciation for Adam Sandler.

Published: The Mount Holyoke News, reprinted with permission
April 6, 2007

Updated October 15, 2010

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