At least it’s better than Sandler dressing in drag.
Former university room-mates Charlie Fineman (Adam Sandler) and Alan Johnson (Don Cheadle) meet up again by chance on a Manhattan street corner. Five years after losing his family in the 11 September 2001 attack on New York City, Charlie – once a successful dentist – has retreated from his life, and Alan is stunned to see the changes in his formerly gregarious friend.
9/11 dramas are ones that can be pretty hard to make, mainly because people out there are still very sensitive to the subject. Yes, 11 years later, people are still not ready to be reminded of that disastrous day and it’s films like this that remind us just how terrible it was for everybody. Even somebody like Billy Madison.
I could totally tell what Mike Binder was trying to do with this flick, and for some of it, it worked. This almost seems like a “buddy drama” of sorts because it focuses on Charlie and Alan’s relationship throughout most of the film and it serves as the heart in the middle of it all. You see how certain people deal with loss and grief in different ways: some try to act like it never happened by avoiding everything that has to deal with their loss, while others just still have it on their minds 24/7 and barely find any comfort from it. It’s definitely something that seems very true and the way Binder touches on it, with delicate care and respect for most of the people out there, who have all had to deal with something as painful as this.
Another aspect of this flick that I also liked was the huge use of music for this movie, as it seemed like they were used in a way that was more believable, rather than just trying to throw classic rock songs at us every 5 seconds so we’ll go home and search ‘em up on YouTube. As you can tell, The Who is definitely in this film but there are also other key tracks from the likes of Bruce Springsteen, The Pretenders, and of course, Pearl Jam who actually do a cover of the song that this movie is named after. Maybe it’s not as awesome as I’ve made it sound but it’s still some clutch music, used for some very clutch moments.
However, there are definitely a lot of glaring problems here that really bummed me out considering just how well this film was doing for the first hour or so. One of the problems was that I think Binder lost a lot of focus with what the main story here was. The relationship between the two main characters is obviously the main focal point of this flick, but the has way too many side stories going on here, that it distracts us from what is mainly going on here. For example, there is a whole subplot concerning Alan and a patient of his that keeps on trying to give him a blowy. This story took up so much time here, that even when it was finally revealed as to why she was being the way she was with him, that I just knew why they brought her character here and what they’re going to do with her next. That’s not the only story here that distracts, but it’s one of the main ones that seem to take us away from our story at hand: these two dudes’ friendship, and the one dude going through some real, heavy shit.
Even when the film did focus on its main plot, a lot of it starts to get very repetitive as it goes along. Every time the films would focus on Charlie, we would see him just being a nut and trying his damn near hardest to avoid any single question or type of conversation that would relate to his family or 9/11. It happened once or twice, which was fine, but then they just started to really hammer away on that and it almost felt like we were the ones getting the therapy here. This bothered me to high heavens and it also took a lot away from the film considering this should have been so much more emotional than it actually was. Still, at least it wasn’t as manipulating as Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close. Now that’s a shit storm right there people.
The main set-up for this film, basically was to show us Adam Sandler‘s return into dramatic territory and for the most part, it’s a pretty good performance if a bit, disappointing. Sandler does a great job of keeping his character very warm, fuzzy, and also very weird but never a character that you feel like is a bad person, just a very hurt one to say the least. Sandler doesn’t ham it up with this performance and is a lot more subtle and it works very well, especially when it comes to the scene where he talks about what went down with his family and how he felt. I don’t want to say that it made me tear up but it was definitely an emotional scene, and one that Sandler performed very well.
However, there is also a bad side to this performance as well. Sandler is good with the dramatic stuff as well as some of the comedic stuff that Binder throws in here, but a lot of the scenes where he flips out and shows his anger, seem very out-of-place but it has nothing to do with the writing or direction, it’s mostly Sandler’s voice. Sounds weird, right? Well Sandler’s voice here, whenever he freaks out, is pretty much the same goofy voice he uses for such characters in The Waterboy and Billy Madison and considering none of those scenes are trying to be comedic at all, it’s confusing and a little bit distracting. Maybe that’s why it was so good for him to be silent in Punch-Drunk Love, because we couldn’t hear him utter the word “Borophyll”.
However, as much as the film revolves around Charlie, it’s actually supposed to be more about Alan, played by Don Cheadle. Cheadle, as always, is great and does everything that he can with this performance but the film strides so far away from his character, that in the end when it seems like they want it to be all about him, some of it comes off as fake and underused. Still, Cheadle does what he can and that’s really all that matters.
Consensus: Reign Over Me boasts strong performances and keeps its heart in the right place, but sort of loses focus and take our minds away from what the film is essentially trying to talk and be about.