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Review

Serious Sandler film brings in mixed reviews

March 23, 2007

I’ve always dug Adam Sandler’s dramatic work more than his comedies. He’s always good for a few laughs, but I get an even greater feeling from seeing him pull off the unexpected and pile drive me with true acting skill.

I had hopes that “Reign Over Me” would join Sandler’s turns in “Spanglish” and “Punch- Drunk Love” as his best, and the film’s first few minutes certainly seem to indicate this direction. Unfortunately, “Reign Over Me” quickly disintegrates into a tragicomic mess that sits about as well in the end as an E. coli taco.

Don Cheadle plays Alan Johnson, a guy who can’t seem to get any respect at all. He’s alienated from the fellow partners at his dental practice, and he goes home each day to a nearly emotionless wife.

One day, Alan runs into an old college roommate, Charlie Fineman (Sandler), a disheveled mess who has buried himself in his own private world following the loss of his family in the 9/11 attacks. Although Charlie doesn’t remember Alan at first, the two start to hang out more, with Charlie beginning to peek out of his shell and Alan getting to experience some much-needed personal freedom.

Trouble rears its ugly head for both parties as bad memories continue to plague Charlie, while Alan is forced to deal with a nasty lawsuit at work. It’s only through their revived friendship that these two men can start to deal with problems they’ve both shuffled under the carpet for too long.

“Reign Over Me” was the second movie I saw in a span of 24 hours that had a big case of cinematic schizophrenia. “I Think I Love My Wife” had a problem keeping cohesive with its comedic and dramatic sides, but whereas that movie was more of an all-around comedy, “Reign Over Me” is more of a somber drama with emotionally-heavy themes which make the dashes of humor scattered throughout all the more puzzling.

The storytelling of “Reign Over Me” is about as skillful as a three-year-old with a shot put, getting off to a pitch-perfect start that the rest of the film never lives up to.

The story, for as much potential as it has, is dragged out for far too long, littered with timewasting subplots, and ultimately comes to a moral conclusion that Joe Six-pack could figure out before even buying a ticket.

Cheadle’s performance is just fine here, but Sandler is a real disappointment. The guy completely misses the mark as his idea of being dramatic apparently means mumbling, screaming a lot and looking like Bob Dylan on a diet of Little Debbie cakes. He uses a pretty simple approach to taking on a very complex role, and his lack of a strong grasp on the character of Charlie sadly shows here.

Though not without some touching dramatic moments and a couple of solid performances, I found myself wanting to do while watching “Reign Over Me” what Charlie often does throughout the flick: slap some headphones on and wish I was in a better place.

A.J. Hakari is a student at UW-River Falls.

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