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"A playful, diverting romp in the same vain as "Happy Gilmore" and "Billy Madison.""
"Nicholson pokes fun of himself and prior roles."
"Sometimes even an occasional laugh can be the best medicine."
Anger Management  

Cast

Dr. Buddy Rydell: Jack Nicholson
Dave Buznik: Adam Sandler
Linda: Marisa Tomei
Galaxia: Woody Harrelson
Arnie Shankman: John C. Reilly
Review April 2003

"Anger Management" is a brainless comedy about how one man must cope with a hidden inner rage. It contrasts the absurd, comedic style of Adam Sandler with the more serious and dramatic acting talent of Jack Nicholson. The end result of which is a playful, diverting romp in the same vain as "Happy Gilmore" and "Billy Madison."

Dave Buznik is a soft-spoken, hard working executive assistant at an advertising agency. He is non-confrontational, passively ambitious, and has a beautiful girlfriend (Tomei). One day, while aboard an airplane, a polite request for headphones is misconstrued by a flight attendant. She claims he assaulted her and an air marshal forces him to leave the plane. Following a hearing, he is sentenced to spend a significant amount of time in anger management therapy.

At therapy, Buznik runs into a variety of other angry characters from the famous (Bobby Knight and John McEnroe) to the not so famous. There, he meets Dr. Buddy Rydell, the wily and unconventional anger management therapist. Preaches Rydell, "Temper is the one thing you cannot get rid of by losing it." To help the anger patients diffuse their tempers, Rydell pairs each of them with an "anger ally." And Buznik is paired with Chuck (Turturro), an uptight and tense ex-con. The two end up in a bar one evening and Chuck ends up starting a brawl. As luck would have it, Buznik accidentally injures a waitress in the scuffle.

Of course, this means another court appearance. This time, however, Rydell intervenes and saves Buznik from a one-year prison sentence. Rydell's new proposal calls for a more aggressive campaign against Buznik's anger: one in which Rydell will eat, sleep, and work with Buznik intensively for one month until the anger problem has dissipated. Moving into Buznik's residence, Rydell exerts all kinds energy in hitting Buznik's pressure points. He forces Buznik to sleep "European" style, cook, sing, travel to Boston, confront his childhood nemesis, and even break up with his girlfriend.

As the month of therapy comes to a close, Buznik is able to break through and overcome his fears and passiveness to exert himself. The only question is whether this change in persona will be enough to save his job, his girl, and his lifestyle.

This is a pleasant return to form for Adam Sandler and his production company, Happy Madison. It recaptures the fun and amusement of both "Happy Gilmore" and "Billy Madison." There are a slew of cameos from Woody Harrelson to Heather Graham to Roger Clemens to former Mayor of New York City Rudy Giuliani. Unlike Sandler's acclaimed performance in "Punch, Drunk Love," this is not awards material by any means nor was it meant to be. It is simple and contrived but nevertheless, an enjoyable film.

As usual, Sandler plays the low-key, straight role with pent up hostility. Similar to Gilmore or Bobby Boucher, he is a ticking time bomb waiting to explode. But this time, it's not Bob Barker or football players who provoke him, but Jack Nicholson's Buddy Rydell. There is a love interest (Tomei), the usual characters from past Sandler films (Turturro, Nealon, Covert), the sexual innuendos, feelings of low self esteem, and the possibility that at any moment, a song could break out. In this case, West Side Story's "I Feel Pretty" is inserted for hilarity. The only unique element in the film is the pairing of Sandler with Nicholson. But surprisingly, this dynamic alone makes the film worth watching.

Obviously, if you are not a fan of Sandler or his humor, you may not like this movie. And many who are fans of Jack Nicholson may be turned off by this role too. It is a slapstick comedy unlike anything Jack has done before in the comedy genre. Most of his work in comedy has been in the dark or romantic comedy arena ("The Witches of Eastwick," "Prizzi's Honor," "As Good As It Gets," etc.). With his trademark crazy stare, the raising of the eyebrows, and the devilish grin, Nicholson pokes fun of himself and prior roles. I don't think anyone else could have pulled this off like Jack. He's always fun to watch and this turn, although not as noteworthy, is still amusing.

The one thing that keeps this from being a terrific comedy is the fact that Adam Sandler's character is not really all that angry. He is one-dimensional and only erupts after provocation by Nicholson in anger management therapy. Even more so, the types of things that Rydell does to instigate a response from Buznik are exactly the types of things that would make any sane person angry. Thus, Buznik's anger is not one in the form of a disease but rather, a normal type of anger from normal stimuli. Had Buznik really had a problem, the film would have been more colorful and the situations more comical.

"Anger Management" is exactly what you'd expect from an Adam Sandler movie, nothing more, nothing less. There are many funny moments, heartwarming moments, and moments of sheer silliness. Even though we've seen most of this before, it is still a laughable amusement. And sometimes even an occasional laugh can be the best medicine.



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