The acting is great, the main characters are deep, and there’s enough dramatic tension to provoke an emotional response.
But for all of its passion, there are too many characters and a noticeable attempt at creating overwhelming drama.
For Dr. Alan Johnson (Don Cheadle), life is good but not perfect. His wife smothers him and the dentists riding his coattails at the successful practice he’s created don’t respect him.
Enter Charlie Fineman (Adam Sandler), Johnson’s college roommate, whose wife and three children were killed when their plane hit one of the Trade Center towers.
Fineman survives by pumping up the volume on his iPod, playing drums for a screaming punk band, and remodeling his kitchen constantly in a vain attempt at ignoring his pain. Fineman is also obsessed with the video game Shadow of the Colossus, whose story parallels Fineman’s struggle to surmount the obstacles in his life which keep him from normalcy.
It’s a movie full of ambition — it wants to strike the heart.
Johnson juggles helping Fineman, defending his practice from a false lawsuit, and sorting out his relationship with his wife.
Sources of drama are plentiful. The problem is that the story meanders through a convoluted series of plotlines that get bigger and messier, especially as they overlap.
Stripped to its main characters, the movie is strongest when Johnson and Fineman share the screen because there is chemistry there. However, the duo is joined by a bevy of supporting characters vying for attention.
It’s tough to see a story wear out its welcome especially with content that’s strong and presentable. The argument isn’t whether movie audiences are ready to discuss the 9/11 tragedies — for the purpose of creating a situation that’s so difficult to understand and so emotionally resonant, the writers found something heavy to set the stage with for a movie about deep loss.
That pain anchors the movie and provides for compelling moments, but the excess weight cheapens the movie making it feel gimmicky, overly ambitious, and long.