Anger Management (2003) / Comedy

MPAA Rated: PG-13 for crude sexual content and language (originally R, but appealed)
Running time: 106 min.

Cast: Adam Sandler, Jack Nicholson, Marisa Tomei, Heather Graham, Woody Harrelson, John C. Reilly
Director:  Peter Segal
Screenplay: David Dorfman

Review published April 14, 2003

As appealing as the match-up of Adam Sandler and Jack Nicholson (About Schmidt, The Pledge) is, very little else seems right about Anger Management, a very contrived comedy that plays mostly for lowbrow laughs and silly hysterics.  The two stars keep the film afloat with their genuine charm, and admittedly, they are quite fun to watch when onscreen together.  It's the material that lets us down, sporadically amusing enough to sit through, but the main story and many of the plot points make little or no sense, serving merely as excuses to springboard into more sight gags and goofiness.  In fact, there is little sense which can be made from an "anger management" guru that antagonizes his pupils into bouts of rage and confrontations, and even if you factor in the ultimate twist revealed in the end, the film threatens to become unraveled in implausibility.

Sandler plays David Buznik, an insecure, mild-mannered fellow, who gets into a bit of trouble while on a plane sitting next to anger management expert, Buddy Rydell (Jack Nicholson).  He gets convicted for assault, and order to undergo anger management training with, you guessed it, Rydell and his class full of eccentric hotheads, all of whom make David feel very much the fish out of water.  Trouble still follows David around, including a bar fight where he gets trumped up as the bad guy, he must undergo 30 days of intense one-on-one behavior modification therapy from a man he considers to be quite crazy, Rydell, who invades every facet of his life and turns it upside down.

This is about as flimsy a premise for a film involving Nicholson, so his fans may find this material hit-and-miss.  Sandler's fans will likely be a little easier to please, as Anger Management is built around the style you've come to love (or loathe) him for, namely, dick and fart jokes combined with cheesy music and bouts of endearing immaturity.    Tommy Boy and Nutty Professor II director, Peter Segal, actually manages to keep this ridiculous farce from collapsing to the end with lots of energy and special guest star cameos, and although they are mostly unnecessary and inconsequential, at least they do manage to keep your interest during the film's occasional lulls.

Anger Management is, at the very least, a better vehicle for Sandler's fans than 8 Crazy Nights and Mr. Deeds, so if you are a die-hard fan, you'll most likely enjoy him coming back to the form he hasn't shown in years.  Nicholson makes for a memorable foil, and the film is lot more fun whenever he's onscreen, even if the jokes tend to be tired or ill-conceived.  If only the film had a wittier script, a real comic gem could have been made, but Anger Management plays it mostly for the cheap laugh, and while it does garner a few here and there, the sum product of so many bad jokes begins to take its toll.  In the end, a disappointment of missed opportunities for a talented cast, and only recommended for those who aren't expecting anything more than a slapstick no-brainer.

Qwipster's rating:

2003 Vince Leo