In the world of videogames, it’s a common cliche that developers and publishers never met a WWII premise they didn’t like. More-recent wars, however, have remained largely off limits. Hollywood has taken a similar approach, although several films have teased modern affairs such as the Gulf War and, more recently, the attacks of September 11. Reign Over Me is one such experiment, a film that tries to inject a story of healing with the occasional comedic performance from Adam Sandler, who plays a man whose family died as passengers on one of the planes. Try as it might, however, Reign Over Me just illustrates that this topic should stay off limits for all but the most sure-fire situations, and its Blu-ray presentation unfortunately does the same.
To its credit, Reign Over Me definitely tries to inject a sense of humanity into the tragedy of 9/11. Adam Sandler, playing a devastated former dentist, is struggling mightily to cope with the loss of his family. Meanwhile, one of his old dentist friends, played by the always-good Don Cheadle, is trying to cope with the trials and tribulations of a troubled marriage. Brought together by their own “tragedies,” the two men essentially try to heal together, but the film quickly falls apart as the writing (and Sandler’s acting) can’t quite capture the power necessary to fully deliver on Sandler’s side of the story.
Likewise, the Blu-ray Disc version of the film tries hard to be “next gen” but fails in its execution. Nothing was clean or sharp about September 11, 2001, other than the pain surrounding that tragic day. In the world of 1080p displays, however, “clear” and “sharp” are the name of the game, and the picture quality of Reign Over Me is unfortunately neither. Having recently reviewed Bblu-ray Discs such as Bram Stoker’s Dracula and seen what can be accomplished with 15-year-old film transfers, the amount of graininess in the just-out-of-theaters Reign Over Me is extremely surprising and, at times, even somewhat distracting on a high-definition set.
Also distracting is the lack of consistency in the audio presentation. Although Reign Over Me is presented in an uncompressed (English PCM) format, the film suffers from volume levels that one would normally only hear when a normal TV broadcast gave way to an unusually loud advertisement. In this film, though, the volume difference between vocal and musical scenes is really quite jarring, and it should’ve been balanced more prior to the film’s release on Blu-ray Disc.
If the audio unbalancing was an afterthought, perhaps the need for special features was as well. For everything consumers hear about the massive storage capacity of Blu-ray Discs, Reign Over Me certainly doesn’t provide a worthy example of how to use that space. Coming in at just over 26 minutes in length, the bonus features on Reign Over Me are only three in number. Behind the Reign (16:51) is the requisite “making of” feature, but for all intents and purposes it feels like a fluff piece that somebody in the studio wanted to see excerpted on Extra! or Entertainment Tonight. Still Reign: Photographic Montage (5:35) also tries to be more than it is, a PowerPoint-like slideshow of images that falls far, far short of the artistic photographic quality we’ve seen on other films’ bonus features such as Jerry Bruckheimer’s photos in the Pirates of the Caribbean films. The final bonus feature, Extended Jam Session with Adam Sandler and Don Cheadle (4:40) is easily the best of the bunch, but it’s that way because the in-character and improvising actors are good at what they do, not because the bonus feature was particularly well thought out (and maybe, in fact, wasn’t planned at all).
Try as he might, Adam Sandler just can’t seem to nail non-comedic performances, and Reign Over Me, while it tries to inject a sense of humor and humanity into the tragedy of September 11, just wasn’t the best film for him to tackle. Maybe it’s a matter of Sandler being pigeonholed into comedic roles. Perhaps it’s the script not giving him enough to work with. Or perhaps it’s just a matter of 9/11 still being too close for people to tolerate a movie that misses the mark on such a recent and important memory. Whatever the case, Reign Over Me, both as a film and as a Blu-ray Disc, just doesn’t feel like a product that should be reigning over much of anything other than a bargain bin.
- Overall: 6.4
— Jonas Allen