Poised between standard touchy-feely PTSD processing and outright 9/11-sploitation, Mike Binder’s shameless attempt at tearjerking is a buddy dramedy stuck in the emotionally manipulative red zone; it might as well have an intertitle card declaring the healing may now begin every ten minutes.
Frustrated dentist Alan (et tu, Don Cheadle?) is a typical woebegone guy saddled with a successful job, a loving wife (Pinkett Smith) and the existential ennui that comes with adult responsibilities. A chance meeting with his old college roommate Charlie (Sandler)—now a basket case puttering around the West Village on a motorized scooter—briefly sends Alan into his pal’s state of teenage regression. Cue montages of PlayStation marathons, Mel Brooks triple features at Cinema Village and Bruce Springsteen musical-therapy sessions. Charlie’s arrested adolescence, however, doesn’t spring from a case of Peter Pan syndrome: His wife and daughters were on one of the planes that hit the Towers. Only Alan, it seems, can guide him back to the real world.
You can see Cheadle straining to add shading and depth to a stock male-menopausal character, and it’s interesting to see Sandler use his angry manchild persona for something more substantial than pleasing the fratboy demographic. But seriously: Arrgghh! Binder’s insistence on pitching everything at the level of either sitcom shenanigans or movie-of-the-week weepiness compromises any significance the subject matter might have. After Liv Tyler’s therapist starts racking up breakthroughs and a detour into courtroom drama leads to a cringeworthy title-song outburst, you’ll feel your embarrassment descending into one of those Sandleresque rage spirals. (Opens Fri; Click here for venues.) — David Fear