Reign Over Me
Adam Sandler plays against type in this drama about a man with a broken heart who finally gets a chance at making a new life.
Charlie Fineman (Sandler) was a dentist, but after his entire family was massacred in the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks (they were on one of the planes that took off from Boston airport that terrible morning) he becomes a lost soul, retreating into a world of video games and jam sessions.
Then one day his college roommate Alan Johnson (Don Cheadle) happens across him and, having heard what happened to him and being a kind soul, wants to rekindle their friendship. This is easier said than done; Fineman is now quite irresponsible and doesn't care that what, to him, is a great night out could cause angst for Alan's wife (Jada Pinkett Smith) and family, which sits at home and wonders what happened to him.
Fineman surely needs help, but does he need psychiatric help, a good friend on which to lean, or a new woman in his life? These are some of the questions dealt with in Mike Binder's quiet film, which at times is in danger of plodding excessively but which won us over before the end – and not just because it has The Who in it!
It's kind of a buddy film, or maybe a "budding buddy film" and as Alan helps Charlie grow and deal with his demons, he also grows in his own way and in the end both of them come away as better people. And isn't that nice and warm and fuzzy? Except there's more to it than that.
Sandler is excellent. At the beginning, he's dangerously close to redoing one of his comedy characters, off the wall and with a bit of a speech impediment, but he makes it work. Cheadle is also very good as the likeable professional and family man whose building friendship with Fineman threatens to overturn his comfortable little world.
The supporting cast is also very good. Smith is strong as Alan's put-upon wife, and Liv Tyler exudes humanity as the shrink Alan tries to get Charlie to see. Saffron Burrows does a nice job in her role of a strange but attractive woman who at first seems completely whacked out, but who later (like so much else in the movie) proves to be more than meets the eye.
Binder himself has a supporting role as Charlie's lawyer/"troubleshooter" and he's joined by Donald Sutherland as, surprisingly, a compassionate conservative judge and Melinda Dillon and Robert Klein as Charlie's estranged in-laws.
It's fairly predictable and a little ragged, but by the time the credits roll (accompanied by a Pearl Jam cover version of The Who's classic "Love Reign O'er Me) you'll be glad to have spent this 124 minutes in your home theater.
The DVD is available in either anamorphic widescreen or Pan&Scan versions and, unfortunately, we were stuck with the Pan&Scan one and thereby had to deal with the edges being sliced off the picture. But what we saw was very good, clean and crisp, bright and colorful.
Audio is Dolby Digital 5.1 surround and it's very good, with nice use of the surround channels. And the old music sounds just right.
The film is also available on Blu-ray disc.
Reign Over Me, from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Jim Bray's columns are available through the TechnoFile Syndicate.
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