Film Reviews


By • Mar 23rd, 2007 •

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Columbia Pictures / Mr. Madison Prods.
Running time — 128 minutes / MPAA rating: R

Sandler does a good job but the story is awful.

Charlie Fineman (Adam Sandler) is living the life! He’s got a fabulous address in New York City, a big empty apartment with a huge flat screen TV, a protective landlady, a financial advisor, a trust fund, concerned in-laws, and a powerful lawyer. He does exactly whatever he wants to do. He tools around Manhattan on a scooter and when he wants to, he plays drums in a band in Greenwich Village. He has no friends but that’s because he is crazy and has a loud negative energy charge around him. He repels people.

Charlie is damaged goods. He knows it. So he has regressed into a state of infantile bliss. He says whatever is on his mind. He has no boundaries.

Everything is going along well for Charlie until Alan Johnson (Don Cheadle) sees him on the street. They were dental-school roommates (Charlie, we are told too many times, slept in the nude) who lost touch many years ago. Alan has a successful dental practice, a big apartment, a castrating wife Janeane (Jada Pinkett Smith) and two pre-teen girls. I call her “castrating” since she wants Alan to talk about his feelings and she looks at him like he’s a day laborer.

What happened to Charlie? Alan decides that whatever it is, he can fix Charlie (he’s avoiding his problems by focusing on someone else’s) and return him to reality without anti-psychotic medication (which he needs). Charlie’s wife and three daughters were on one of the 9/11 planes. Charlie’s grief is so huge that he has retreated into a world where he is incompetent to write a check, pay a bill, or cut his hair. But he’s got people who are not only watching out for him, but taking care of his 9/11 financial bounty. He is set for life. So why is Alan so worried about Charlie? Charlie does fun stuff. He spends his days going to record stores and playing video games all night. He doesn’t have a curfew!

Charlie doesn’t have a bossy receptionist, hostile partners, or have to look in people’s mouths all day.

Alan has a crazy gorgeous stalker, Donna Remar (Saffron Burrows), who wants to have oral sex with him in his office. Alan rejects her so she threatens to sue the dental group. He never tells his wife. Guess who ends up with Charlie?

This is a bespoke film for a comedic movie star who wants to show range. Sandler, not my favorite, does a good job. He does not slip into sandlerisms. He’s true to the character – he’s mean and much of the time not likeable. But the story is just too indulgent! Charlie is a carefully crafted role for a movie star with his own production company. Everyone in the film is concerned about this little treasure of a person. And Charlie arcs!

Charlie has a big crying scene. And Sandler delivers the goods! My question is this: Would you be friends with Charlie or would you instinctively cross the street? Do you care if he gets help, does not go into a mental hospital, or re-models his kitchen?

Using 9/11 as a backdrop makes it rather hard to criticize REIGN ON ME but this is precisely the sort of movie manipulation that makes me resentful. Tragic things happen to people all the time. Thousands of lives were lost on September 11 and families and friends lived on. Didn’t Charlie get any grief counseling?

This is a vehicle for Sandler, so all the other actor and actresses are just window dressing. Charlie is the center of attention and he shouldn’t be. In my personal life experience, I have found that if people want to be left alone to go psychotic, it is best not to try to reason with them about their woeful mental state. They will turn on you and then you are in danger. Cheadle tries his best to give Alan an inner life of conflict while Liv Tyler plays the kind of therapist you want to slap.

Screenwriter-director: Mike Binder
Producers: Jack Binder, Michael Rotenberg
Executive producers: Jack Giarraputo, Lynwood Spinks
Cinematographer: Russ T. Alsobrook
Production designer: Christian Winter
Music: Rolfe Kent
Co-producer: Rachel Zimmerman
Costume designer: Deborah L. Scott
Editors: Steve Edwards, Jeremy Roush

Charlie Fineman: Adam Sandler
Alan Johnson: Don Cheadle
Janeane Johnson: Jada Pinkett Smith
Angela Oakhurst: Liv Tyler
Donna Remar: Saffron Burrows
Bryan Sugarman: Mike Binder

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