2 ˝ Stars (out of 4)

Director: Mike Binder

Cast: Don Cheadle, Adam Sandler, Jada Pinkett Smith, Liv Tyler, Saffron Burrows, Robert Klein, Melinda Dillon, Mike Binder, Donald Sutherland

MPAA Rating:   (for language and some sexual references)

Running Time: 2:04

Release Date: 3/23/07

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Capsule review by Mark Dujsik

A mixture of comedy and pathos, Reign Over Me is successful until the rusty workings of its story gears start to show. It features a character suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder after losing his family on 9/11, but writer/director Mike Binder avoids a sense of collective mourning, leaving that very specific kind of grief aside for a more generalized one. Why 9/11? It's none too clear, but it adds a false sense of importance to an otherwise sympathetic look at sorrow and the way people hide it within themselves. Don Cheadle plays Alan Johnson, a dentist, who runs into his old dental school roommate Charlie Fineman (Adam Sandler, looking more than kind of like Bob Dylan). Charlie is the man with PTSD after losing his wife and three daughters on one of the hijacked planes, and Alan tries to rekindle their old friendship, even though Charlie doesn't seem to remember him. There's plenty of conflict here, most of it forced. Alan has to justify his friendship with Charlie to his wife (Jada Pinkett Smith), who oddly disappears for good chunk of the later scenes. He's caught up in a pointless subplot involving potential sexual harassment suit from a gorgeous patient (Saffron Burrows), whose real role in the story becomes painfully apparent when Charlie first eyes her. Then there's Charlie's in-laws (Robert Klein and Melinda Dillon), who want to force Charlie to confront the loss of his family to the point that (obvious formulaic turn alert) it eventually goes to court. It's a particularly loaded movie. Characters exist solely to fit into the plot's workmanlike developments (Liv Tyler plays a psychologist whose eventual role should be pretty based on her profession), and even the presence of the video game Shadow of the Colossus seems laden with symbolism (the game is about a childlike hero battling demons greater than himself). Sandler puts on a funny voice again, and even though that quirk of the actor's repertoire fits Charlie's psychological state, he's not up to the depth of the character—a potentially affecting monologue about his family is hampered by Sandler's lack of commitment to the moment. Still, before the movie forces all its elements together, Reign Over Me is honest and has its heart in the right place, but it's a shame Binder doesn't trust those strengths enough.

Copyright © 2007 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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