Reign Over Me isn't
a good movie. Sure, it's loaded with good intentions, or the
appearance of same. But if good intentions counted, then my
trash for the last three weeks would have gotten taken to the
curb and not hidden in the hall closet. But it's another thirty
feet to the curb and I got some shit to do.
What Reign Over Me is is a movie made
by people who have some vague idea of what they want to say,
but get tripped up every step of the way by their own limited
talent. A dentist (Adam Sandler) loses his family in the 9/11
attacks and becomes a ghost of a man in New York City. He rides
around on a gas-powered scooter all hours of the day and lives
like a recluse in a very nice apartment, with a really fucking
huge TV. He doesn't have to work because he lives off the massive
government payout and insurance money he got.
It seems like a pretty good gig to me. Well,
except the losing your family part. Now he has to do his own
dishes. Anyway, Sandler putters along, staying out of others'
ways and doing everything he can to forget his own tragedy until
his college roommate-in-a-rut (Don Cheadle) sees him and tries
to draw him out of his shell.
What follows is generally trite resolutions
and realizations punctuated by mumbo-jumbo psychology and Sandler's
horrific interpretation of suffering as something like autism,
retardation and baby-talk, all at the same time. Like any "prestige"
movie about a retard, the retard doesn't change, it's the people
around him who have to learn the lessons. See, it's the non-prestige
movies (except Charly, I guess) where retards transform.
Cheadle fucks up Sandler's fragile existence
by trying to get him to go to therapists or talk about the dead
wife and kids he is trying hard to forget. It's all well-intentioned
but boneheaded, just like this movie. Through this, of course,
Cheadle learns, first that Sandler was doing about as well as
he was going to before the meddling. Also, second, to embrace
his own boring-ass life and annoying wife. To cherish the ones
you love, and all that horseshit about an average life being
worthy and noble, and blah blah blah.
It's a long slog to get to that revelation.
The audience has to sit through Sandler acting so hard that
he appears to be breaking out in hives. You can tell he's serious,
though, because his hair is all matted. Hell, he even cries
in one scene. That's better than his baby-talk, blubbering into
his shoulder, and we get plenty of that. We also are supposed
to think that the tragedy that befell him makes him incredibly
childish and stupid. I guess that's how he makes his living,
but Jesus Christ in a tub of Miracle Whip, he barely has the
desire to act in his shitty comedies. Whose fucking idea was
it to let him "stretch"?
Along Cheadle's path of self-discovery, sitcom
piles up like dogshit in the Mrs. and my back bedroom. There's
a "sassy" black receptionist who gives the bad guys backtalk
and, apparently, is supposed to crack us up. Cheadle encounters
a "sexy" woman (Saffron Burrows) who inexplicably wants to give
him a blowjob after he fixes her teeth (why would a woman want
to blow someone when their mouth is all numb and bloody -- now
that I think about it, I don't know the answer but it sounds
pretty damn hot). When he turns her down, she threatens to sue.
Of course, the solution is sitcom pat and cornball. As it is
when Cheadlle keeps waiting for a psychiatrist outside his building
so he can "accidentally" bump into her and get free advice.
Or when he confronts his dental-practice partners about showing
him more respect. Rather than tell him to fuck off, they all
act like they got what they deserved. I sure as hell don't know
anyone who rolls over that fucking easy, except my wife after
she eats a whole Mrs. Smith's pie in bed.
All that shit betrays the writer-director, Mike
Binder's past as the creator of bad, insincere and badly out-of-touch
sitcoms like Mind of the Married Man. Seriously, did
anyone ever watch that show for a reason other than hoping to
see some boobs? Binder's stock in trade is the cornball coincidence
and pat solutions, and here he is trying to weave them into
a movie about post-traumatic stress disorder. Man, it doesn't
Like Cheadle and Sandler, Cheadle's wife (Jada
Pinkett Smith) and Sandler's accountant are painted one shade
too simple. They are as one-dimensional as a mobius strip. Cheadle
and Sandler are about 1.5 dimensions apiece, but both are very
muted and somber to make sure we get that this movie is about
important shit, despite the sitcom antics. Because of that,
Reign Over Me moves like it's underwater. Everything
takes way longer than it should, and getting to the point, which
turns out to be not much, is like pulling teeth. And not people
teeth. I mean dog teeth. With the dog awake. When he doesn't
Well, he didn't. But I didn't know that at the
time. We were just drinking together and my dog, who never ever
talks, starts saying his tooth hurts. So I got a plier and yanked
it out, but I had to use the cord from the phone, a lamp cord
and the curtain string to keep him lying still.
Then, the next morning, when I was sober again,
he told me it was the wrong tooth and that I had hurt his feelings.
Damn dog has never spoken to me since. Point is, it was unnecessarily
painful and drawn out for him. Just like the plot of Reign
Over Me. Two Fingers.