The Story: Former college roommates Alan Johnson (Don Cheadle) and Charlie Fineman (Adam Sandler) randomly bump into each other again for the first time in years. However both have undergone significant change since their college daysóAlan is unhappy with his stagnant life and Charlie has withdrawn from reality after tragically losing his family. The renewed friendship blossoms, turning out to be exactly what each needs to make it through this crucial time in their lives.
The Good: Mike Binder, the man behind 2005ís largely overlooked The Upside Of Anger, returns with another tale about lives caught up in turmoil. As before, things arenít always dreary, with moments of humor sprinkled throughout, but make no mistake this is a drama, and Adam Sandler responds by giving one of the best performances of his career. The role isnít much of a deviation from his usual childish, emotionally distant, easily angered persona, however this time it is much more complex and intricate. The scene where he breaks down and finally opens up about his past is the best acted scene heís ever done, displaying an honesty and emotional authenticity weíve merely glimpsed of before. Don Cheadle, who actually carries much of the movie, gives another strong performance by getting the audience to feel for and care about his character. The film is also the first movie that incorporates 9/11 into a fictional story, handling it with both respect and truthfulness.
The Bad: Don Cheadleís character and storyline isnít as strong or well developed as that of Sandlerís. Itís the same type of situation weíve seen in countless movies beforehand and only the talents of Cheadle and Jada Pinkett Smith, who plays his wife, are able to make it work. The subplot involving the weird psychopathic woman didnít fit in with the rest of the movie and felt particularly forced towards the end. Despite the fact that Donald Sutherland and B.J. Novak are very good actors, they didnít fit their parts and were miscast in their small, albeit pivotal, roles. The movie also suffers from the Hollywood Syndrome down the home stretch, squandering the chance for an exceptional ending.
The Verdict: I must admit I am an Adam Sandler fan, having seen all of his movies since 1994ís Airheads, and was very pleased to see him excel in another dramatic role. His career has largely been inconsistent in terms of quality, usually a fault in his selection of scripts, and it was nice to see him move away from his usual assortment of dick and fart jokes to continue his evolution as an actor. That maturation, along with the great Don Cheadle and a good job from Binder, allow Reign Over Me to join Punch-Drunk Love as one of Sandlerís best.