When it ‘Reigns,’ it pours on Sandler

It’s hard to fault Adam Sandler for attempting to take on another dramatic role. Anyone who has seen his first attempt in 2002’s “Punch Drunk Love” knows that Sandler is a good actor in general. Sandler probably saw “Reign Over Me” as another opportunity to clear his name from film critics’ list of most hated actors. Unfortunately, it turns out to be a missed attempt.

Don Cheadle plays the film’s other main character, dentist Alan Johnson. Johnson is stuck in a New York City traffic jam when he sees his former roommate Charlie Fineman (Sandler). Charlie is a troubled individual, struggling with the burden of having lost his wife, their three daughters and the family dog when all were aboard a plane that hit the World Trade Center in the Sept. 11 attacks.

Despite having two beautiful daughters and a loving, caring wife in the form of Jada Pinkett Smith, Alan is unhappy with where his life is headed. He is sick of taking care of his senile parents and can’t get over no longer being the boss of a dentist firm. Alan finds that hanging with Charlie is a great way to bring him back to the days when he was young and reckless and able to run away from his problems.

But this seems to be the major flaw in the movie. Both try to help out the other, yet never try to help themselves. The audience is along for the ride as both dodge those who want to help them and the journey is an unsatisfying one at best.

There is no question Sandler can act, but in this film it appears he showed up each day and acted the way he always does, only substituted more depressing dialogue. For nearly the film’s entirety, Charlie is delirious and has sporadic, violent outbursts at the most inappropriate times. Cheadle is good as always, but also gets short-changed by the script. It’s as if Charlie shows up one day and makes Alan realize that having a loving wife and two children isn’t fun and caring for his parents is holding him back.

The performances of Jada Pinkett Smith and Liv Tyler as Charlie’s psychiatrist make, the film not a complete loss. But with their lack of screen time, and the amount of time the film dedicates to showing Charlie’s flamboyant and over-acted scenes of craziness, the film is just a disappointment.

When Sept. 11 happened, it was wishful thinking it would never be used to add a little more emotionality to a film. “Reign Over Me” appears to recognize that it is a stew full of the cliché “man trapped in unhappy life he can’t escape” plot and needed to add the Sept. 11 back story in order to spice things up. But perhaps it wouldn’t have needed it had it shown a group of not-so-confused and unhappy characters and then actually provided the audience with an ending that brings a sense of closure after an over two-hour journey.