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Capone Mulls Sandler's Post 9/11 Angst & The Awesome Use Of Springsteen Music In REIGN OVER ME!!

Hey, folks. Capone in Chicago here with my review of one of the week's big question-mark releases, one I think a lot of people are even hesitant to even consider being something of quality. Prepare for a bit of a shock. I'm always been ambivalent about the works of writer-director-actor Mike Binder. While I was a big fan of his last theatrical release, 2005's The Upside of Anger, the film he made after that, Man About Town starring Ben Affleck, went straight to DVD. One of his early works was the terrible Damon Wayons superhero comedy Blankman, and if you ever saw it, you probably still have the scars. But with his latest, Reign Over Me, Binder shows a maturity and sophistication that has been largely untapped with his projects so far, with the exception of Anger. As with that well-done film, his new one deals with a family broken by unexpected loss. And who better to convey a man's shattered soul and mind after a terrible tragedy destroys his life than Adam Sandler? It's a serious question, because after seeing Reign Over Me, I can't think of anybody who could have pulled this off better than the man who wrote "The Hanukkah Song" and "Red-Hooded Sweatshirt." What Sandler achieves with his portrayal of Charlie Fineman, a New York City dentist whose wife and young daughters were on one of the planes that crashed into the World Trade Center, calls on the actor to be childlike, aggressive, violent, distraught, suicidal, patient and impatient, sometimes in the space of just a few minutes. It is by far the finest acting Sandler has ever put forth, and it marks a turning point in his abilities that was only hinted at in Punch Drunk Love and Spanglish, two films I hold dear to my heart. Also on hand giving it everything he has is Sandler's co-star Don Cheadle, who plays Charlie's dental school roommate Alan Johnson, who, until 9/11, led an almost parallel great life to his friend's. Alan has leads a successful dental practice, makes a lot of money, has a lovely wife (a nice, dialed-down performance by Jada Pinkett Smith) and great kids. He even has female patients hitting on him, one of which (played by Saffron Burrows) offers to give him oral favors just for being a nice guy. And while Charlie's story is the focal point of the plot, it is Alan who serves as the moral center of the film. When the two run into each other on the street after many years of not seeing each other, it sets off a chain reaction of events that change both of their lives and reveals some deeply buried truths about both men. Charlie has lost his mind. He has totally driven every memory of his family life from his mind, and if you ask him about it, he flips out, breaks things, and becomes paranoid that you are trying to analyze him or have him committed. He has abandoned his dental practice, received a great deal of money from insurance, and spends most of his time at home playing video games, eating, and attempting to complete the years-in-the-making renovation of his kitchen (a project his late wife had mentioned the last time they spoke). When he does go out, he tools around the city on his motorized scooter with headphones on listening to mostly anthemic '70s rock tunes. As Alan spends more time with his old friend in an effort to help the man come back to the real world, he grows envious of Charlie's freedom and fearful of his explosive tendencies, both of which cause tension in his household as Alan begins to realize that his life is so sternly managed and routine driven that he has no time for spontaneous fun. Cheadle's is the more stealthy and subtle performance, and one gets a special thrill watching these two actors navigate around and through each other. As if we need more reasons to love Liv Tyler, she is on hand to play a psychiatrist friend of Alan's whom he enlists to help with Charlie's slow and difficult return to normal and functional. When Charlie's in-laws (Robert Klein and Melinda Dillon) attempt to have him committed after years of attempting to connect with him, the real world comes crashing down on Charlie and Alan's heads. Reign Over Me doesn't have villains, but that doesn't keep it from having high drama. Having Sandler on board does offer the film a few much-needed moments of levity, but this is no cutesy mental illness flick with watered-down versions of true emotional damage and easy solutions. The movie is as much Alan's struggle as Charlie's. And as hard as it is to believe that you could ever feel sorry for a successful dentist, Cheadle makes Alan's efforts to reconnect with what made him enjoy life when he was younger. One facet of the film that many people will probably discuss is the outstanding soundtrack. In addition to The Who song "Love, Reign O'er Me" that gives the film its title (there's also a beautiful closing credit version by Pearl Jam), the movie has what I believe is the greatest use of Bruce Springsteen music in film history. There's an unforgettable sequence that serves as the emotional epicenter of the film in which Charlie's iPod headphones are around his neck. You can heard Springsteen's "Drive All Night" bleeding through the headphones and into the scene, serving as the in-the-moment music for this devastating exchange between the two old friends. I'll admit, I got a little choked up. Reign Over Me has its flaws. It feel long at times and has about three endings too many, the last of which feel slightly tacked on to make us a little more certain that Charlie is in a good place as we prepare to leave him. But in a film filled with such heart-wrenching emotional wreckage, a neat and tidy ending isn't such a terrible thing. It seems every year around this time, something like this completely satisfying movie slips out in the month of March and really takes me by surprise with its honesty and commitment to entertaining grown-up folks. This one is going to hit you hard and take you by surprise; my favorite combination.


Readers Talkback
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  • March 23, 2007, 12:58 p.m. CST


    by bluepizza


  • March 23, 2007, 1:03 p.m. CST

    Im glad you like Spanglish

    by godzillasushi

    I did too...I might actually like this one...

  • March 23, 2007, 1:07 p.m. CST


    by greyspecter

    I can't think of a single performance of Cheadle's that wasn't quality. And I haven't even seen Hotel Rwanda yet. And yet, I've heard this was a bad movie. What to believe?

  • March 23, 2007, 1:09 p.m. CST

    Another Serious Clown.. Come on..

    by hatespeech

    don't go all Belushi on us, Don't Murray out. We want fart jokes. Silly hannuaka lunch lady man!

  • March 23, 2007, 1:11 p.m. CST

    Solid review, buuuuut still not gonna see it

    by where_are_quints_hobbit_set_reports

    I am not an Adam Sandler hater, although not particularly a fan either, and Cheadle is a perfectly good actor, but having seen the previews, and now reading this review confirming my impressions of it... I'm sorry, but this looks fucking boring. <p> I don't care about New York City, I don't care about Bruce Springsteen, and I don't care about wealthy professional men wth complicated longstanding friendships and 9/11 angst. Sorry. This ol' Southern Boy is stayin' home.

  • March 23, 2007, 1:18 p.m. CST

    TOO SOON ! !

    by Pound Sand

    Between this, and Punch Drunk Love, Sandler makes the most successful transition towards serious roles. Jim Carrey and Rob Schneider, take note.

  • March 23, 2007, 1:29 p.m. CST

    I'm was really looking forward to see this

    by Bean_

    And a good review from Capone confirms my thoughts that this could really be great. Thanks!

  • March 23, 2007, 1:31 p.m. CST

    Finally. This Years Lil Miss Sunshine

    by ev1ldead

    besides that: Sandler was already perfect in the wonderful Punch Drunk Love.

  • March 23, 2007, 1:39 p.m. CST

    good to see bob dylan acting. Wait, thats sandler.

    by SydBarretsMyDad

    get it? he looks like dylan with his hair?!?! aaaaahhhh...fuck off.

  • March 23, 2007, 1:47 p.m. CST

    I saw an early script...

    by BillyPilgrim

    Did they leave in the part where Sandlers wife comes back as a Cylon?

  • March 23, 2007, 1:47 p.m. CST

    Good Job Captboulder

    by Darth Kosher

    Whether you were going for Ironic, or Jackassity -- well, done.

  • March 23, 2007, 1:50 p.m. CST

    No thanks, I prefer movies that don't make me

    by CTU Mole

    want to jump out of a fucking window afterwards. I'm sure it's good though.

  • March 23, 2007, 1:50 p.m. CST


    by SexyDrownWatch1

    ...because he certainly wouldn't have gotten a huge insurance settlement from the 9/11 victims' fund, or anything.

  • March 23, 2007, 2 p.m. CST


    by SexyDrownWatch1

    Sounds like someone needs some attention today. Good luck with that kiddo!

  • March 23, 2007, 2:05 p.m. CST

    fuck you capone

    by lopansbitch

    Blankman was pure genius. When J5 fell down the stairs, it was cinematic gold

  • March 23, 2007, 2:15 p.m. CST

    Cooooome on up for the riiiiiiisin

    by JackRabbitSlim

    All pop stars need to be summarily purged from this planet when they either A) use a 40 piece gospel choir to prop a creaky, tuneless piece o crap or B) turn 40 and still labor under the selfdelusion they are relevant to anything but mor "the music of your life" radio. Mr Springsteen - the furnaces have been lit and await you.

  • March 23, 2007, 2:19 p.m. CST

    how many movies

    by lopansbitch

    are going to play up the 9/11 thing? i'm i the only one tired as hell about hearing about it? it happened, it was awful, we know already. let's move on. I mean it's not like the US hasn't ever invaded a country and killed it's people for a belief they had. I'm sorry it happened, but shit like that happens every day

  • March 23, 2007, 2:22 p.m. CST

    Sandler was only cast because he's Jewish!!!

    by Sigmar 25

    And also what's up with all the Biggie Smalls banners, I think some ad demographer needs to be fired.

  • March 23, 2007, 2:32 p.m. CST

    I've Seen This Flick

    by Kilgores Doubt

    The original name was much better: "Empty City". And trust me, the movie has its flaws, but it far from a "Feel Good" movie. More like a "feel good you aren't him" movie.

  • March 23, 2007, 2:34 p.m. CST

    Does he do the 'Take our your cock & balls' bit?

    by Baron Karza

    From his first album? That was great!

  • March 23, 2007, 2:52 p.m. CST


    by MaxCalifornia.


  • March 23, 2007, 3 p.m. CST

    (SPOILER) major logic problem/plot hole in the script

    by where_are_quints_hobbit_set_reports

    when Adam's character has to get uptown and the other dentist's Lexus is in the garage WHY DIDN'T THEY JUST FLY THE EAGLE!!!!

  • March 23, 2007, 3:08 p.m. CST

    I dig Sandler's serious work, but

    by superninja

    this seems rather contrived, but not on purpose.

  • March 23, 2007, 3:37 p.m. CST


    by SubliminalJones

    .....equals whiny, shallow jackass whose only taste in his slack-jawed drooling mouth.

  • March 23, 2007, 3:44 p.m. CST

    too bad

    by gorydon

    this film doesn't delve into the truth about 9/11 and how it was all a big conspiracy in order to get precious oil money!

  • March 23, 2007, 3:51 p.m. CST

    Until I see this, the best use of Springsteen music

    by redtom

    in a film so far is when Freddy Heflin and Liz Randone had their little moment out in New Jersey....

  • March 23, 2007, 4:18 p.m. CST

    Closing credits PJ

    by magnetoelectric

    The cover for Love Reign O're Me is available for download now on Itunes-Its outstanding

  • March 23, 2007, 4:40 p.m. CST


    by kikuchiyoboy

    Hee hee. I don't know. Blankman gave me the giggles. "What's this?" "It's the lower half of a rollerblade" Goodtimes, goodtimes.

  • March 23, 2007, 10:25 p.m. CST

    Lopansbitch, the "9/11 thing" is fresh and gives

    by Bronx Cheer

    the filmmakers a shortcut. They could just as easily have had the deaths occur because of a car accident, or yeti attack, but using 9/11 allows them to exploit a national tragedy. If it's been okay for Bush to exploit 9/11 to launch an illegal war and kill tens of thousands, then it's open season for Hollywood to do it as well. Myself, I'm waiting for the episode of "The Office" where the paper company realizes the huge business opportunity that 9/11 has created for paper manufacturers, because every time a new film gets made featuring the destruction of the Twin Towers, remember all that paper that was floating everywhere! The whole thing sucks, and what with news out today that some of the remains from the clean-up might have been used to fill potholes etc on NYC streets, I think it's safe to say that whatever was still sacred has been pissed on by Bush, by the idiot bureaucrats in NYC, and by those 9/11 Truth assholes. Newsflash: 9/11 happened because some assholes hijacked planes and crashed them in NYC and DC. If ANYONE thinks Bush and Cheney could have cooked up the scheme, all you have to do is take one look at how they bungled the attorney dismissals to realize they couldn't have put on a shadow puppet show without it being botched.

  • March 24, 2007, 12:10 a.m. CST

    "Spanglish" blew balls.

    by Mike_D

    Sorry but it did.

  • March 24, 2007, 1:09 a.m. CST

    Anybody who even thinks 9-11 was an "Inside Job"

    by uss cygnus

    1. Is mentally ill. 2. Is a traitor and should be shot for sedition and treason. 3. Does not deserve to continue to live. We live in a country where people like John Lennon and Bobby Kennedy take SIX bullets in the chest, and all of these Stalinist left sycophants continue to live and breathe. There is no justice. Semper Fi.

  • March 24, 2007, 10:19 a.m. CST

    My take...

    by Damer1

    Things I liked about the movie: 1. There was no 9/11 flashback at the beginning of the movie. 2. Cheadle and Sandler's chemistry on screen was excellent. Things I didn't like: 1. Liv Tyler is not believable as a mental health professional. 2. The courtroom scene at the end was contrived although I appreciate that BJ Novak has the range to play exactly the same character as he does on The Office. I'd say this is a 3.5/5 star endevour.

  • March 24, 2007, 12:45 p.m. CST

    uss cygnus you ignorant slut...

    by Stringer Bell

    You said "Anybody who even thinks 9-11 was an Inside Job is a traitor and should be shot for sedition and treason." Out of curiousity what is your definition of "sedition" and "treason"? I don't personally believe 9-11 was an inside job, but if I'm not mistaken people on the Pro-War front have been saying all along we're fighting for freedom. Well, unless I'm mistaken that includes the freedom to think whatever you want, no matter how batshit crazy it is. If you think people should be shot for just thinking something then you are in need of serious help. That goes against everything this country was founded on. Think before you speak, even if it is the anonymous internet and all...

  • March 24, 2007, 6:04 p.m. CST

    Copland does rule

    by where_are_quints_hobbit_set_reports

    P.S. the Bush administration are treasonous American-killing slimebags who have sabotaged our nation's reputation and future and deserve impeachment, imprisonment and weeks-long waterboarding. After all it's a harmless practice, Cheney said so.

  • March 24, 2007, 7:18 p.m. CST


    by Stringer Bell

    While we are probably on the same side of the political isle, talking about water boarding the President and Vice President only does the Left a disservice. Same rules apply for us as them. See above post. Maybe someday we can actually work together on the 80% or so consensus issues in this country instead of fighting over the 20% wedge issues.

  • March 24, 2007, 8:12 p.m. CST

    i liked sandler's look in the trailer

    by AllieJamison

    he seemed pretty hot and dylanish. i remember that the first time i saw it i wondered if there was a dylan biopic in the making i wasn*t aware of. anyway...either that, sandler's appealing appearance or whatever else made me anticipate this one. you know, that kind of indulgent anticipation, where, against all odds you still think it could be good. the review sounds really comforting. it's funny how "childlike, aggressive, violent, distraught, suicidal, patient and impatient, sometimes in the space of just a few minutes" just recall the wonderful punchdrunk love sandler... ahh how i loved that...