I took a class in graduate school devoted to melodrama in film. I'm not sure what that says about higher education or my own education, but it enabled me to label Reign Over Me concisely as male melodrama, a type of dramatic movie we don't see very often since many people equate "melodrama" with "women's film." Many people also wrongly equate melodrama with hackneyed filmmaking that manipulates an audience to wring tears out of them (thus the term "tearjerker"). The stories are often overwrought and unbelievable, but the point is the effect of the film as a whole. For the most part, Reign Over Me succeeds on a melodramatic level, offering an emotional ride without excess artificiality.

Reign Over Me is about two men approaching middle age with varying degrees of problems, who discover the joys of friendship (platonic) with one another. Alan (Don Cheadle) is a successful dentist whose troubles all seem to stem from females: his wife wants too much of his time in pursuit of dull hobbies, his female clients practically stalk him, and the woman he turns to for help and free therapy rebuffs him. He accidentally runs into his old college roommate, Charlie (Adam Sandler), who's changed a lot in the past half-decade. Charlie lost his wife and daughters on Sept. 11, and his persistence in locking away any memories of his life with them has made him eccentric at best and psychotic at worst. Still, he's able to help Alan by doing Guy Stuff with him: riding a scooter around New York, playing video games, making music together, going to a Mel Brooks marathon. Alan wants to help Charlie confront his past and return to some semblance of a normal life, but Charlie thwarts him at every turn.