Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

Every once in a while, Happy Gilmore wants to go out and get all serious on us.  Sometimes, it works wonders such as in the outstanding ‘Punch Drunk Love’.  Sometimes, it doesn’t work so good, like when Billy Madison got all serious on us in the somewhat underwhelming ‘Spanglish’.  This time though, Bobby Bouchet gets serious as the veritable heart attack in Mike Binder’s post 9/11 drama / comedy ‘Reign over Me’.


Don Cheadle is Alan Johnson, a Manhattan dentist with a nice practice a beautiful wife (Jada Pinkett-Smith) and two lovely daughters.  He’s also miserable, friendless, and incommunicative.  He spies his old college roommate, Charlie Fineman (Adam Sandler) in Manhattan traffic one day, but can’t catch him before he motors off on his scooter.  We would soon find out that Charlie lost his wife, three daughters and the family poodle who were on one of the planes during the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001.  Eventually, Alan is able to track down Charlie who doesn’t even remember him.  Charlie has chosen to remember almost nothing that has occurred before that fateful day and lives a tortured existence that includes constantly redesigning his kitchen, playing in a metal band and playing Playstation.  So paranoid is Charlie about even the thought of someone mentioning his previous life, it makes the man react unpredictably, and usually violently.  Eventually, Charlie and Alan manage to reconnect on some level and form a tenuous friendship in which the two can find a kind of escape within each other. 

Despite the renewed friendship, there is trouble as one would imagine.  Alan is

spending more time away from home, much to the chagrin of his wife, and Charlie has cut off everybody from his previous life, including his mother-in-law and father-in-law who just want to be part of Charlie’s life.  Alan also would like to see Charlie get some professional help and face his grief other than continuing to avoid it, six years after the fact.


‘Reign Over Me’ is a lovely, sad, touching and emotional film.  At the premiere I attended, which was graced with the presence of both Sandler and Binder, tears were flowing throughout the theater.  I must admit that I wasn’t one of them, though I’m not immune from crying at the cine, but it’s usually a football movie, or ‘Finding Nemo’.  Truth be told though, I had the worst toothache before the movie started so I was pretty much crying even before the damn thing started. 


Even though ‘Reign Over Me’ is being billed as an Adam Sandler picture, Don Cheadle is pretty much the star of the movie as the narrative that writer Binder has structured centers on the Cheadle character and his environments and introduces the Sandler character as a variable within that environment.  It is the Alan Johnson character who has open up, who has to go through the most change during the duration of the film, who has to face what his life has become since he and Charlie Fineman had parted ways after school.  Charlie Fineman’s communication problems were forced upon him, while Alan Johnson’s were voluntary for the most part.  Mike Binder, who directs the film quite ably would be hard pressed to find a better actor for the part of Alan Johnson than Don Cheadle who plays his notes perfectly throughout the film. 


Though much will be made of Adam Sandler doing the ‘serious’ thing again, it’s really not that much of a big deal.  Not to say that he wasn’t good in the movie, because he was very good, but Charlie Fineman entered the film crazy, and he pretty much left the film the same way.  This is good though, as I would have hated to see a man in horrific pain for six years cure himself of the grief surrounding the murder of his family in two hours.  Just wouldn’t happen.  Charlie showed some gradual progress, but he’s still nuts.  Now ‘Punch Drunk Love’… that was some good ass acting right there by Billy Madison.


‘Reign Over Me’ was a fine film and definitely worth seeing.  It ran a little too long for my taste and I could see where maybe it could have had twenty minutes or so shaved off, but running time aside, if your in the mood for one helluva tear jerker, then ‘Reign Over Me’ may be the tissue puller you’ve been looking for.

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