Like his fussy and contrived THE UPSIDE OF ANGER, actor/writer/director Mike Binder's maudlin chronicle of a renewed friendship between two emotionally damaged dentists (yes, dentists have emotions) is as overstuffed as a twice-baked potato.
Suffocating in his picture-perfect marriage to smart, beautiful Janeane (Jada Pinkett Smith), the mother of his two young daughters, Manhattan dentist Alan Johnson (Don Cheadle) finds an unexpected outlet for his frustrated desire for male bonding when he runs into Charlie Fineman (Adam Sandler), his old dental-school roommate. Alan knew Charlie's life took a turn for the worse after his wife, daughters and poodle were killed when their Boston-to-L.A. flight slammed into the World Trade Center. But he's shocked by the transformation: Disheveled and disoriented, Charlie is clearly suffering severe post-traumatic stress disorder. No longer a practicing dentist, Charlie spends his days alone, buzzing around the city on a motorized scooter, collecting vinyl LPs of the albums he once loved (The Who's Quadrophenia, Springsteen's The River, The Pretenders' debut) and obsessively remodeling his kitchen, something his wife talked about the morning she died. Charlie's nights are devoted to anesthetizing, mind-numbing video games. Yet Alan finds comfort in his renewed friendship with Charlie; Alan, too, is friendless and enjoys the respite from reality and its attendant responsibilities. Charlie, meanwhile, sees Alan as "safe": Alan knows little about what Charlie had and lost. Nevertheless, Alan realizes Charlie needs help, and despite Charlie's rages at any mention of his deceased family, Alan enlists the help of a psychiatrist friend (Liv Tyler) to help Charlie get back on track, even if it means confronting the pain he's repressed since that terrible morning.
Like Sandler's turn in P.T. Anderson's PUNCH-DRUNK LOVE, this "rare dramatic role" is just a darker variation on the character he's always played: the slovenly, overgrown kid who subsists on pizza, Chinese food and video games and is allergic to adult responsibility. But though Sandler speaks as though possessed by Tweety Bird and seems to be confusing PTSD with brain damage, he still delivers a pretty powerful performance. Shards of an interesting buddy comedy lie buried beneath the bad psychiatry, worse judicature (courtesy of a sleepy Donald Sutherland) and a truly terrible subplot involving a nymphomaniac (Saffron Burrows) that's straight out of Penthouse Forum. Unfortunately, the movie is more interested in Charlie — the only New Yorker in this New York-set film incapable of moving past Sept. 11 — than Cheadle, and Janeane is edged out of the picture altogether. Movies like Paul Greenglass' UNITED 93 got people arguing over whether or not Americans are "ready" for movies about 9/11. Well, we are: We're just not ready for movies in which it's reduced to a mere plot point.
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- Released: 2007
- Rating: R
- Review: Like his fussy and contrived THE UPSIDE OF ANGER, actor/writer/director Mike Binder's maudlin chronicle of a renewed friendship between two emotionally damaged dentists (yes, dentists have emotions) is as overstuffed as a twice-baked potato. Suffocatin… (more)