Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Sandler Does Well: Reign Over Me

Reign Over Me
Directed by Mike Binder
Released March 23, 2007

Casting Adam Sandler as a man who lost his family in 9/11 is a certifiably risky decision. The movie that results is an uneven but powerful drama about a renewed friendship between two friends that takes them back to simpler times. It moves from light comedy to intense drama in an instant, and its effect throughout the film trounces the awkwardness of some of the transitions. Some minor characters exist only as distracting comic relief, but their presence does not hamper the generally serious but light nature of the film. I still left feeling satisfied, even though the movie in its specific parts was not assembled altogether seamlessly.

Don Cheadle is great as Alan Johnson, a dentist stuck in a life led without excitement. His character goes beyond the typical “straight man” who the audience isn’t really supposed to care too much about, and Cheadle gets a fun chance to shine (I personally am looking forward to the upcoming Talk to Me, where it looks like Cheadle is having a lot of fun). Sandler’s performance is more difficult to dissect. Many people in the audience were laughing at his dialogue, but not necessarily because of Sandler’s image, but rather because Charlie’s dialogue is simply written very comically. The audience empathizes with Charlie, because he seems so innocent and child-like, and moreso, likeable.

Seeing this film in New York City adds to its impact. During the opening credits, Charlie scooters straight towards the Washington Square Arch, and leads the audience on what is essentially a scooter tour of New York City. Throughout the film, the city plays a large role in the activities and events which surround Charlie and Alan. When Charlie finally describes how he found out his family was dead, I could hear people crying in the audience. Reign Over Me is not a movie just for New Yorkers, but rather it has a special significance and meaning for those whose lives were so closely affected by the 9/11. Maybe that is why the film contains the aforementioned comedic balance – there needs to be something to laugh about in the midst of such a tragic event.


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