I generally like Adam Sandler comedies despite (or maybe because of) the fact that they’re full of predictable, sophomoric humor. The one time he strayed from playing his usual Regular Joe role in these types of comedies, for 2002′s Punch-Drunk Love, was met with a certain amount of critical acclaim; however, I have to admit I didn’t like that film at all.
So when I heard that Sandler once again ventured outside the box for this year’s Reign Over Me with Don Cheadle, I was a bit skeptical about what the end product would be like. It seems this skepticism was well-founded, so I think I’ll just stick to Sandler’s run-of-the-mill comedies from now on!
Plot summary (with possible spoilers): Sandler stars as Charlie Fineman, a dentist who gave up his practice and has started living the life of a recluse. He cruises around the streets of NYC on a motorized scooter, never leaves home without a pair of headphones on so he doesn’t have to interact with people, doesn’t make eye contact, and mumbles when he talks. There’s obviously something wrong with him (later, we find out he lost his wife and three daughters in the 9/11 terrorist attacks).
Then one day, Dr. Alan Johnson (Cheadle), Charlie’s college roommate, sees Charlie on the street and tries calling out to him. Charlie either really doesn’t hear Alan, or pretends not to. Either way, he doesn’t stop to chat. Thinking this is really odd behavior, Alan determines to track Charlie down again.
When Alan and Charlie finally do meet face to face, Charlie claims not to know who Alan is. Alan, who knows full well why Charlie is shutting himself off from the rest of the world, is not going to let that answer stand. He makes it his personal mission to get Charlie to talk to a psychiatrist about his grief so he can come to terms with it and then move forward with the rest of his life.
The remainder of the film then consists of various scenes showing how completely unequipped Alan is to handle Charlie’s problems. Every time they seemingly make forward progress, something happens to make Charlie regress even more. By the end, however, Charlie does seem to be taking baby steps towards a normal existence thanks to Alan’s tireless efforts.
My Reaction: I’d heard a lot of good things about this movie before I rented it, so I wanted to like it — I really did — but there were just too many problems with it. First of all, I couldn’t stand the way Sandler’s interpretation of the Charlie Fineman character. I don’t have any firsthand knowledge or experience of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, but I do realize it can manifest itself in many different ways. However, Charlie’s general demeanor and his freakouts at the tiniest problems reminded me more of Rainman than anything else, which was highly distracting.
Another thing I didn’t like about this movie was the sexual harassment subplot involving Johnson and one of his patients. What was the point of that whole thing? I mean, there must be a point, right? But whatever it was, I completely missed it. As a result, I just felt like those scenes were a huge waste of time.
I thought the scene where Charlie finally broke down and talked about his family was well done; but, really, there weren’t many other positives in this film.
Overall, Reign Over Me failed to live up to the expectations I had formed for the film based on numerous good reviews and its current 8-star rating on IMDB. I give it just 3 stars out of 5, and think that’s being generous!