Adam Sandler, Don Cheadle, Jada Pinkett Smith and Liv Tyler star in this heart-rending story about Charlie Fineman (Sandler), who has slipped away from reality after the sudden loss of his wife and children. But Charlie's life takes a turn for the better when he runs into his old college roommate Alan Johnson (Cheadle), whose life is torn between the demands of career and family. Their renewed friendship rekindles their long-forgotten bond, and both men emerge enriched and enlightened. Bill Zwecker of CBS-TV hails REIGN OVER ME as "A truly brilliant film."
One of the first films to examine the aftermath of post- 9/11 New York City, Reign Over Me shows how much even indirect contact with those who lost loved ones in the tragedy can greatly affect. Like rings of debris spiraling out from an explosion, Charlie Fineman's (Adam Sandler) loss also devastates his in-laws, who he refuses to speak to, and ex-college roommate, Alan Johnson. Reign Over Me stars Johnson, a successful dentist with a gorgeous wife, Janeane (Jada Pinkett Smith) and two kids, who finds Charlie reverted back into a teenage wasteland, unable to face his unbearable sadness. Sandler as Charlie looks like Bob Dylan and acts like Dustin Hoffman in his great dramatic performance. Listening to The Who and The Boss through headphones, playing video games, and continually remodeling his kitchen, Fineman's escapism disturbs Johnson, who, in turn, feels squelched by his stiflingly normal lifestyle. As the two reacquaint, Johnson is the only person who can help save Fineman from self-obliteration. The story analyzes Post Traumatic Stress with some accuracy, though excess sentimentality undermines emotional scenes. Survivor's guilt, assessing mental illness, and absolute incapacitation due to grief are all topics covered within the bounds of the enduring friendship forged between these two men. Ultimately, Reign Over Me's message is one of compassion, as a reminder to treat victims of loss with patience and care. But interestingly, it also pays heed to smaller human tribulations, which are obstacles to healing when left untreated. --Trinie Dalton
Stills from Reign Over Me (click for larger image)