I have no idea what critics thought of this film. I don’t know how it did at the box office. I can’t even recall knowing anything about it, except for seeing its title on the showtimes board at the theatre. It doesn’t matter. I’m telling you now, Reign Over Me is a wonderful film.
I’m in one of those situations when I’ve discovered a really special movie, and want to recommend it to everyone I know without telling them anything about it. I’m not sure whether I can get away with that here, but I’ll try. Let’s talk about the DVD. Does it give Reign Over Me a fair shake? Read on to find out.
Written and directed by Mike Binder (The Upside of Anger), the film stars Adam Sandler (Billy Madison) and Don Cheadle (Hotel Rwanda), two fine actors, one of whom doesn’t get enough credit. It’s a story about two men rekindling a friendship after years without contact. One has lived the perfect life — got married, had kids, built a successful career. The other tried that, but a 9/11 plane crash destroyed everything and he’s been lost since. When he meets his old college roommate, he either pretends to or honestly doesn’t remember him, but the old friend can see he needs help and is determined to provide it, even though it might cause trouble with his own “perfect” life.
I like too many things about Reign Over Me to write about them all, and I already feel I’ve relayed too much. This film stays with you long after it’s done. It’s sad and funny, heartwrenching and joyful. It’s musical in feel, and uses music in many ways to great effect. There are a few hiccups, but as a whole it feels very real and I already want to watch it again. You should watch it, too.
Reign Over Me — Widescreen Edition is presented on a single disc, in 2.40:1 format, preserving the aspect ratio of its original theatrical presentation. Its story is beautiful, but so are its visuals. It has a very rich, film-like feel, and shows many interesting perspectives throughout. Binder discusses in the bonus material how he wanted the film shot at sidewalk level in New York, to give viewers the perspective of long-time inhabitants who live in the concrete canals between all those buildings you see in the typical high, sweeping shots filmmakers can’t resist shooting in the big apple. It worked very well for the story, and this transfer does an excellent job translating the film to your small screen.
English audio is Dolby Digital 5.1. For a film like Reign Over Me, there’s a lot to appreciate on this track. As expected, there’s a lot of dialogue, and it all sounds perfectly clear. But as I wrote above, the film also has a lot of music woven in its fabric. Rolfe Kent’s score sounds full, and certainly plays a major role in the film’s emotional arc. It’s the superb soundtrack, though, that plays lead. Highlights include Springsteen, Roger Daltry and of course Pearl Jam, whose cover of The Who’s “Love Reign O’er Me” inspired Binder’s title and is used to represent Sandler’s character, a broken man and an amateur musician.
Audio is also available in Spanish, Portuguese and Thai in Dolby Digital 5.1, along with a French DD 2.0 track. Subtitles are offered in even more languages, with English, Spanish, French, Portuguese, Thai and Korean.
I was a little disappointed to discover only three extras on this disc, after so thoroughly enjoying the film. Then I watched them, and discovered this special film has been released with a perfect trio of special features. When you’ve watched enough DVDs, you begin to realize most behind-the-scenes featurettes, deleted scenes and audio commentaries are there only because they’re supposed to be, and they feel like the folks behind them were just going through the motions to satisfy our expectations. Not so with Reign Over Me. What’s here is honestly enjoyable, and more than suitable accompaniment for the film.
- Behind the Reign — The Making of Reign Over Me: at about 16 minutes, this featurette offers insight from director Mike Binder, who has a lot to say about his film and knows how to say it. I would have liked to hear a commentary track from Binder, but this featurette likely represents most of the highlights the track would offer.
- Extended Jam Session with Adam Sandler and Don Cheadle: exactly what it says, this piece runs about five minutes, including an introduction from the two actors. With Cheadle on bass and Sandler on lead guitar, and both tossing in some vocals, this is an enjoyable extra and a great example of the chemistry these actors shared on film.
- A Still Reign: set to Pearl Jam’s cover of The Who’s titular song, this is the best presentation of still photography I’ve seen on any DVD.
I’ve written everything I want to write about Reign Over Me. I’d recommend this film, and this DVD, to anyone old enough to appreciate mature themes.