This movie came and went in theatres, barely making a peep, and given the subject matter, I can sort of see why. It’s a movie that people, especially those in New York, will either find deeply offensive or very touching. For me, I’m in the middle of the road here. I found it to be an interesting exploration of survivor’s guilt after dealing with the traumatic outcome of 9/11. It’s a gutsy movie that has true heart in it, even if it does have a couple flaws here and there. While the movie can be a bit rough at times, I think it is one worth watching.
Adam Sandler, Don Cheadle, Jada Pinkett Smith and Liv Tyler star in this heart-rending story about Charlie Fineman (Sandler), who has slipped away from reality after the sudden loss of his wife and children. But Charlie’s life takes a turn for the better when he runs into his old college roommate Alan Johnson (Cheadle), whose life is torn between the demands of career and family. Their renewed friendship rekindles their long-forgotten bond, and both men emerge enriched and enlightened.
As I said, this movie sort of squeaked into theatres before Sandler’s big summer comedy, I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry. What I thought was going to be at least a sleeper hit, Reign Over Me succumbed to the busy movie schedule and was quickly gone, barely making a peep. Personally, I think this movie should have been given a chance by the movie-goers. It’s a good movie, one that people will undoubtedly connect with, but one that will also upset people, too. Dealing with some touchy subject matter, namely dealing with the lose of loved ones during the 9/11 attack, I can see why people opted not to see it. However, given that the movie is now out on DVD, I think it’s worth a shot now.
There are some tough moments in this movie. As Cheadle’s character tries to snap Sandler back to reality, it does get tough to watch. There are some pretty sad moments in the first half which, sadly, makes the third act of the movie a bit of a letdown. It seems to veer off toward the end, I found. It seems to forgo the quiet character study and turns into a very ‘Hollywood’-esque movie for the last act, right down to the court scenes and dramatic outbursts that seem slightly out of place after the first two acts of the movie. The first half of the movie, as Cheadle and Sandler’s characters start to re-bond after running into each other, is a great movie. There’s a silly sideplot with Cheadle’s character, a dentist, being wrongfully sued after a girl alleged sexual harassment, meant mostly for humor, which seems a bit out of place. But, it does show the stress Cheadle’s character is under, even while handling a busy home life. I believe if the movie stripped that subplot, and maybe went for a more low-key ending, it would’ve been a more powerful movie. But here, as it is, it’s a good film with a few flaws.
Sandler, not surprisingly, does a great job in this dramatic role as Charlie, playing it very close to his chest. There are times when it seems like he’s slipping into his normal comedic routine that we’ve seen in countless movies, but, in actuality, he’s not. It’s a great job. There are a couple times when he’s spewing some really hateful stuff that it gets a bit uncomfortable, but Sandler can pull it off. And, playing off the always-wonderful Cheadle, the two make a great on screen duo. It’s great to see Sandler actually act, watching him as we see him try to deal with such horrible things, and how he just totally collapses under all that weight.
It’s a flawed movie, but a great one. Like I said, it seems to derail a bit before the end, but it’s a great character study. We find Cheadle’s character not only trying to help Sandler’s character, but also himself in the process. It’s an interesting dynamic these two form, one which becomes difficult to watch at times. It does get very heavy and very difficult from times, but it’s a journey worth taking. It’s an interesting character study and provides some stellar acting jobs all around.
The DVD itself is a bit light on extras. The movie has stellar audio and video quality all around. The movie seems to be shot on a mix of hi-def and regular cameras, but I could be wrong. Regardless, the film looks quite sharp at times. The special features include the featurette, “Behind the Reign,” “A Still Reign” photo gallery, and the cool “Jam Session with Adam Sandler and Don Cheadle.” Standard fluff, really, but the Jam Session is actually pretty cool.
Overall, I’d have to Recommend this film. Reign Over Me is not a perfect film, but it does have some great performances and provides an interesting character study. Like I said, I find that the movie sort of goes off toward the end, in my opinion, but it does have some great performances. This is a movie that divided critics and the public. Some loved the approach the movie took to 9/11, other’s found it disrespectful. Personally, I found it honest. It’s a tough subject to tackle, even six years after the fact, and Reign Over Me honestly tries to handle the topic in the best fashion it can, even if it does fumble toward the end. It’s worth checking out, and will likely be a movie that sticks with you for awhile.
Reign Over Me is now available on DVD and Blu-Ray.