Sandler and Nicholson ‘Manage’ a Few Good Laughs

 

Anger Management (2003) Review 5
Director:Peter Segal,
Starring:Adam Sandler, Jack Nicholson, Marisa Tomei, Luiz, Guizman
Length:100 minutes
Rated:PG-13

 

Now that the Oscars are finally over, it’s back to business for Hollywood…and especially for Jack Nicholson. After being nominated for the most restrained performance of his career in “About Schmidt” (and subsequently losing the coveted golden guy to “The Pianist’s” Adrien Brody in one of the biggest upsets in Oscar history), Jack is back in all his eyebrow-raising, over-the-top, scene-chewing glory in “Anger Management.”Anger Management (2003) Review 7

By teaming up with perennial goofball Adam Sandler, Nicholson lets his hair down (or what’s left of it) for some gut-busting, knee-slapping hilarity. Or at least, that was the intention. While “Anger Management” certainly manages a few good laughs and fits the bill as a harmless early Spring moviegoing diversion, sloppy contrivances, lame jokes and an uninspired ending keep the film from being…well, as good as it gets.

When mild-mannered New York City ad exec Dave Buznik (Adam Sandler) finds himself in the middle of a huge misunderstanding aboard an airplane, he is ordered by the court to undergo anger management therapy at the hands of the legendary Doctor Buddy Rydell (Jack Nicholson). Dave reluctantly attends his class, but when another mishap lands him in even more trouble, Buddy has no choice but to move in with him in an effort to work through his demons. Dave is initially caught off guard by his therapist’s rather unorthodox behavior, but he soon learns that his insane method of confronting the past is just what the doctor ordered.

This may be a stretch, but in a strange, offbeat way, Sandler’s character in “Anger Management” feels like a close cousin to the one he played in last Fall’s critically-acclaimed mind-bender “Punch-Drunk Love.” Sandler starts off the film as virtually the same person he played in “Punch”–a repressed, insecure, kind-hearted pushover whose pent-up rage makes him a ticking time bomb–but obviously, that’s where the similarities end.

For the rest of the time, “Management” is much more mainstream, but just when you think that the film is going to utilize Nicholson’s presence to reach beyond Sandler’s core fan base of teenage boys, Nicholson lets a beefy one rip to remind you that, yes, you are still in the middle of an Adam Sandler movie. At least the two of them seem like they’re having a blast together, and while some of their comedic moments fall flat, the jokes that do work easily make the film more entertaining than not.Anger Management (2003) Review 9

“Anger Management” certainly has its moments (especially when Nicholson and Sandler break into their unforgettable rendition of “I Feel Pretty” from “West Side Story”), but it’s still far from being the outrageous comedy that it could have been. Not only does it drag in spots, but it goes on far too long before it stumbles to a somewhat ridiculous conclusion that’s (quite literally) out of left field. In addition, some of the plot contrivances are too obvious to ignore, which is certainly the case with John Turturro’s unstable character, who is inexplicably dropped early on before popping up again near the end of the film.

As for the supporting players, Marisa Tomei collects a paycheck as Sandler’s understanding girlfriend, while glorified cameos from the likes of Kevin Nealon, Heather Graham, Woody Harrelson and John C. Reilly range from the mildly amusing to the downright embarrassing. At least Reilly can be forgiven for his brief scene as a reformed monk after last year’s grand slam with “The Good Girl,” “Gangs of New York,” “The Hours” and “Chicago” (the latter of which garnered him his first Oscar nomination).

It’s worth mentioning that the opening scene makes a direct reference to the difficult times that Americans faced after 9/11, but in light of the current situation with Iraq, the reference takes on an even greater significance that almost takes you out of the movie. Then again, that was hardly the intention, and once you settle back into it, “Anger Management” manages to overcome its flaws to fit the bill as a welcomed diversion from the news currently dominating the headlines. And if that isn’t what the doctor ordered, then I don’t know what is.