Let me just say this. I a not an Adam Sandler fan. I thought Billy Madison and Happy Gilmore were funny, but by the time he got to Big Daddy, his career started going downhill. The movies became redundant and subpar. After Jack and Jill, he shouldn’t have a career at all. However, after seeing Reign Over Me, I can assert with great confidence that Adam Sandler’s problems as a movie maker has nothing to do with his acting ability.
Reign Over Me, named after the lyrics of The Who’s famous song, was released in 2007. Director Mike Binder created a drama about the loss caused by 9/11. Don Cheadle co-stars as Dr. Allen Johnson, an unhappy dentist whose college roommate, Charlie Fineman (Adam Sandler) comes back into his life. Allen soon discovers that Charlie has had severe post traumatic stress disorder ever since his family died in 9/11. Allen tests the boundaries of friendship to get him some help, and ends up improving his own life as well.
I really enjoyed this movie. It was extremely powerful, mainly because of Sandler’s mesmerizing performance. I was actually very surprised, because usually he’s in such, well, less demanding roles in most of his movies. But there are quite a few actors who are mainly in comedies but are very capable of dramatic performances. Take Will Farrell. Even I can enjoy Anchorman, but most of his movies make me feel like my IQ is lowering. However, Stranger Than Fiction, featuring him in a much more serious role, is one of my favorite movies. Jim Carey is also a great example. He’s known for commedies such as Liar Liar, Yes Man, and How the Grinch Stole Christmas. And yet he does awesome dramatic performances in the Truman Show, The Majestic (yeah, it was a flop, but I love it) and most of all, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, one of the best movies ever made in my book.
Another thing I really liked about this movie was that it didn’t pay that much attention to 9/11. Yes, the audience knows that was how Charlie’s family died, but no footage of it is shown, or anything It wasn’t another World Trade Center. I’m personally really glad Nicholas Cage could not touch this movie. I think not focusing on 9/11 was a very good choice because by not dealing with 9/11 directly, but exploring the effects of it through Charlie’s story, the idea of loss and grief becomes more powerful. If someone asks “What did 9/11 do?” it’s not good enough just to show them a number. You show them a devastated husband and father whose life will never be the same.
But another thing needs to be mentioned about this film. It is more than just a tear jerker. Adam Sandler would probably never be in a movie without at least some laughs involved. There are some funny moments, not gut-busting humor, obviously, or the kind of humor that undermines the true message, but enough that provides some relief at the perfect moments. I believe that it is extremely difficult toe that line, to be able to create a powerful and poignant story and still have some laughs along the way. Reign Over Me made it seem effortless.
Anyone who doubts Sandler’s skills (like I did), or any Sandler fans should see this. It is a great film. I give it an 8 out of 10. But I’m still not going to be seeig That’s My Boy.