New Sandler film ‘Reigns’ supreme

Andrew Gaug

As recent comedies have proven that only goofy comedies with absurd premises sell such as Norbit (Eddie Murphy in a fat suit!), Wild Hogs (Aged actors riding motorcycles!) and Epic Movie (Another spoof!), it’s no wonder why actors such as Jim Carrey, Will Ferrell and Adam Sandler are moving more towards dramas.

Sandler, who has had mixed bag with artsy films that don’t catch on with his core fans (Punch Drunk-Love) and bland dramas that don’t allow him to do much (Spanglish), has never been given a role where he truly could shine as a dramatic actor.

Reign Over Me

Starring Adam Sandler, Don Cheadle, Jada Pinkett Smith, Liv Tyler

Directed by Mike Binder

Distributed by Columbia Pictures

Rated R for language and some sexual references

Stater rating (out of five): ****

Reign Over Me gives him that chance with a stellar supporting cast and a script to match.

The film centers around Alan Johnson (Don Cheadle, Ocean’s 11), a dentist who has become bored of his home life and annoyed that his only friend is his wife. Johnson is a charming person who the film hints many women have pursued, but to no avail. After getting caught in traffic he sees his old roommate, Charlie Fineman (Sandler), who casually ignores him yelling his name as he goes to his apartment.

As Johnson catches up with Fineman, he finds himself caught in his world of playing Playstation 2 for hours, watching Mel Brooks films and eating Chinese food. Johnson finds Fineman’s world fascinating, but empty as Fineman rarely talks about himself or his family that he lost in September 11.

As the movie delves deeper into Fineman’s character, Sandler doesn’t miss a beat in making him just as interesting a character as he seems.

Much like his performance in Punch Drunk-Love and Spanglish, Sandler gives a subdued performance filled with emotion as opposed to his attempts at dramatic moments in last year’s Click that felt forced and hollow. It also can be attributed to the help he gets from a great performance and chemistry with Cheadle as they play off of each other’s quirks.

The movie makes all the right moves by centering around Johnson but, in the end, keeping Fineman as the focal point in his life. From the first time we see him, Sandler looks like a mess with unkempt gray hair and bags around his eyes. True to his appearance, Fineman is indeed a ticking time bomb of repressed emotions. Mention of life before his family died sends him into fits of rage – he completely ignores any mention of death and never allows himself to go beyond the surface.

As it enters its third act, the movie loses some steam once Fineman snaps. But an incredibly dramatic moment in a courtroom saves it from having an interesting first half but no payoff ending.

The movie plays similar to Jack Nicholson’s As Good As It Gets, a drama that has enough talent and brains to balance serious moments and comedy. Much like Binder’s last film, The Upside of Anger, he is able to weave stories of loss with humor and depth sans cheesy, inspirational moments.

Though the September 11 angle might turn some viewers off, it’s thankfully underplayed and serves more as background information than another harrowing tale of loss that has been told for the past five and a half years.

The film might be the first win over Sandler fans more concerned with his goofy comedies like Happy Gilmore and Anger Management. It is, by far, the best mainstream drama he has done so far and has enough humor and heart to win over those who’d enjoyed Big Daddy and Click, but want to see what Sandler can really do when he puts his heart into a performance.

Contact ALL assistant editor Andrew Gaug at [email protected].