Sony // 2007 // 124 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Ryan Keefer (Retired) // October 4th, 2007
Live every day like it's the best day of your life.
Adam Sandler seems to be following the path of talented comedians like Jim Carrey and Will Ferrell, where he acts in the occasional dramatic film before returning to comic roots. Sometimes it's been good and sometimes it's been bad. In the case of his latest film Reign Over Me, is Sandler's effort more along the lines of Punch Drunk Love or is it closer to Spanglish?
Written and directed by Mike Binder (The Upside of Anger) and starring Sandler as Charlie Fineman. His college roommate Alan Johnson (Don Cheadle, Hotel Rwanda) spots him on the street one day and strikes up a conversation. Alan hasn't seen Charlie in years, but was aware that Charlie lost his wife and children on September 11. Since his tragic loss, Charlie had blocked out the memories of his family, and became physically confrontation when questioned about it. Alan attempts to restore a long standing friendship with Charlie and tries to get him to seek help, which might be a little more than he bargained for.
I'm sure I'm probably wrong, but Reign Over Me is the first original film I can think of that tackles the aftermath of September 11 head on. I think the Sigourney Weaver/Anthony LaPaglia film The Guys came closest to dealing with the tragedy, and that was based on a play, so Binder should be praised a little bit. While the intent might have been honorable, the execution just left me with questions.
The big decision that remains a head scratcher is the casting of Sandler. He can certainly "do" drama, but it seems like unless the direction is clear cut or the story completely transcends, he doesn't bring much to the table. Sandler plays Charlie as kind of a cross between Rain Man and one of the comic characters he's played over the last decade. That would be fine if the comic roles he was doing weren't giving him awards shaped like surfboards or getting "slimed." I almost expected him to break out and start doing a comic vocal intonation and ham it up for laughs, because I was willing to take the journey with him.
That leaves the rest of the heavy lifting to Cheadle, and he tries to do what he can with Binder's script, but it seems like a thrown together mix of emotions at random points that it almost got frustrating. His dramatic scenes weren't too dramatic, and in the scenes where he's supposed to exhibit some comedy, you barely chuckle. It's sad because he can do both very well. There are other comic talents in the film cast in supporting roles, both young (in B.J. Novak from The Office) and old (Robert Klein, Primary Colors), but their scenes are few, far between and disappointing. The performances aren't all bad, but it goes back to the casting choices, which are a little bit curious. I never thought I'd write this next sentence ever, but Jada Pinkett Smith (The Matrix Reloaded) might have been the most solid and consistent character of the film, given the material she had to work with. But Liv Tyler as a therapist? Seriously, go back to being in music videos. And Saffron Burrows (Deep Blue Sea) is a mutual patient of Cheadle and Tyler's character, and her role seems a bit forced and unnecessary to the movement of the story.
Sony rolls out Reign over Me with their usual AVC MPEG-4 encoded transfer, this one in 2.40:1 widescreen. Shot in high definition, the film bears a lot of natural light throughout the film, and film grain remains present throughout. It seems to lose a bit in the motion sequences where the image seems to trail, but it's a nice looking disc. The PCM soundtrack houses a dialogue driven film where everything is in the center channel and doesn't waver to the satellite speakers. The songs (which are plentiful) do come through clear and strong, which was encouraging.
Strangely enough for all the times I saw the trailer and all the exposure the film got, I presumed that this would be a loaded disc, but that's not the case. On a fifteen minute making of look at the film, Binder recalls his inspiration for the story and the characters as well. Don't get me wrong, Binder seems like a nice guy, but there's a lot of recollection from him, and a lot of on set footage of the cast, but no one could sit down for an interview for a couple of minutes? This is also apparently supposed to take the place of a commentary as well, by the way. Next is an extended version of a musical jam sequence by Sandler and Cheadle, followed by a stills montage from the production set to, you guessed it, Eddie Vedder's version of the Who classic.
To be fair, Binder's decision to approach September 11 by telling the tale of someone left behind is a solid choice and considering how few films there are about the topic, definitely goes into uncharted territory. There are some poignant moments in the latter third of the film that make it worthwhile and I hope that future films go out on a limb subject-wise. He also said something in the supplements about the power of a friendship between men in a non-Brokeback sort of way that led me to think that he was onto something in the film. If only he had developed it better.
Reign Over Me would probably have been a better film if it had known what it wanted to be at some point during the creative metamorphosis of the film. Is it a comedy? Is it a drama? Who knows? Sadly, it's not really answered when viewed, and it's not answered on the sparse supplements that are included. If you're a fan of Sandler or Cheadle, it might be worth renting for the curiosity factor of Sandler taking on serious material, but it's not really memorable in any way and not worth adding to the growing next generation library.
The court is listening to their Who catalog and trying to forget that they watched this.
Review content copyright © 2007 Ryan Keefer; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 2.40:1 Non-Anamorphic (Widescreen)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
* PCM 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 124 Minutes
Release Year: 2007
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Making of Featurette
* Extended Jam with Adam Sandler and Don Cheadle
* Still Gallery
* Official Site