Reign Over Me

It needs help.

Trying to figure out how the awkward title Reign Over Me fits this awkward film is as tough as trying to write something sparkling about it. Punch-Drunk Love Sandler is acting again with an eye on Oscar, but less successfully because nothing here is better than mediocre.

Start with the premise and plot: A post-traumatic 9/11 widower, Charlie Fineman (Sandler), having lost his whole family in one of the ill-fated flights, refuses years later even to remember his loss. Rather, he has dropped out to live a careless life in Manhattan collecting old record albums and renewing a friendship with his dental school roomie, Alan Johnson (Don Cheadle). Charlie needs therapy, and getting him there is the boring center of the film because Charlie acts like a pot head most of the time, deflecting others' attempts to rehab his sorry butt. I suppose there is a metaphoric relevancy here to a country which hasn't learned its war lessons and avoids reality. Yet such a mundane interpretation doesn't mean the story has to be such.

The most interesting part of this tedious withdrawal study is Dr. Johnson's patient, Donna Remar (Saffron Burrows), who, after a veneer job, wants to give him a "b" job. Johnson's attempt to get out of that compromising situation and its impending lawsuit is far more comedic and dramatic than getting Charlie to therapy. The most unbelievable part is the amount of time Johnson spends away from his practice and his lovely family, who indulge his sudden altruism for Charlie almost to the enabling stage.

Charlie tools around town on a cute motorized scooter, although how he can careen down the middle of any Manhattan street even early in the morning is a mystery. It is even more perplexing then, when one considers how fascinating Tony Soprano's therapy always is, that Reign over Me didn't pick up some pointers from that success. But this is not a mob film, nor is it interested in the nuances of characterization a work of art should offer. Charlie needs help; so does this film