Judge Clark Douglas isn't angry. He just feels the perfectly natural need to punch someone every time they start talking.
Our review of Anger Management, published September 8th, 2003, is also available.
Feel the love.
"Temper's the one thing you can't get rid of by losing it."—Dr. Buddy Rydell, author of "Know Buddy Cares"
Facts of the Case
Dave Buznick (Adam Sandler, The Wedding Singer) is not an angry guy. He's a very gentle and low-key fellow who doesn't like to get in anyone's way. He never asserts himself or contradicts anyone. Unfortunately, a series of misunderstood events on a commercial airplane lands Dave in anger management class. The class is led by the eccentric Buddy Rydell (Jack Nicholson, Chinatown), an acclaimed author and therapist who employs a wide variety of controversial techniques. Dave determines to just get things over with as quickly as possible, but Buddy isn't going to let that happen. He makes things increasingly miserable for Dave, which makes Dave increasingly angry…which, of course, doesn't help Dave's progress any. To make matter worse, all of this chaos is beginning to irritate Dave's long-suffering girlfriend (Marisa Tomei, Before the Devil Knows You're Dead). Is Dave ever going to graduate from Anger Management?
It's a typical Adam Sandler movie. With a few notable exceptions (Spanglish, Punch-Drunk Love, Reign Over Me), Sandler movies are essentially combinations of the same elements: an immature Sandler character, some over-the-top supporting characters, an exceptionally pretty girl, a ton of penis jokes, and a handful of high-powered cameos. The only thing that separates one of his movies from another is how well these elements are delivered. Anger Management falls somewhere pretty low on the list, a step above I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry and a few notches below Fifty First Dates.
The plot is nothing short of exasperating, depending heavily on characters who are either insane or remarkably stupid (sometimes both). The film attempts to milk humor from the fact that a guy who doesn't have serious anger issues is stuck in anger management class. This could have been done quite well by a good writer, but here it becomes incredibly annoying after about 10 minutes. As I said, for Dave to remain in the anger management class depends on Nicholson's whimsical insanity and the 3-year-old intelligence levels of everyone else. Additionally, we get a contrived (and gratingly sappy) romantic subplot involving foolish misunderstandings, pointless breakups, and a terrible finale. Finally, there's a twist ending borrowed from David Fincher's The Game. If you thought that ending was inappropriate in Fincher's movie, just wait until you see it here.
Adam Sandler gives his standard one-dimensional performance. Though he's slightly less childish than usual in this role, he has considerably less personality than usual. Somebody apparently told Sandler to be mild-mannered, which Sandler then interpreted as "whimper and whine in every scene." You know, it's a real shame about Adam Sandler. In those aforementioned ambitious films, he has shown some genuine talent. However, he seems content to keep playing roles that he should have abandoned years ago. This was made in 2003, and Sandler's comic performances (and films) haven't become any better since then. Elsewhere in Anger Management, Marisa Tomei hasn't got a thing to do. Tomei is a very talented actress, but she is absolutely wasted here. Additionally, there is a disastrously bad cameo by then-NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani, and unconvincing turns from famously angry folks like Bobby Knight and John McEnroe.
The new hi-def transfer is kind of underwhelming. This was an expensive film because of the star power involved, but it's very simple visually. Aside from sharper facial details, there's nothing of note that is considerably better than the standard DVD transfer. Sound is fine, but there is absolutely nothing complicated or exceptionally interesting about it. DVD extras are pretty standard; they were all included on the original release. There's a mediocre commentary with Sandler and director Peter Segal, some EPK-style featurettes, uninteresting deleted scenes, and an amusing gag reel.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
As with most Sandler movies, this one offers a handful of small pleasures. Here, it's those little supporting roles. John Turturro and Luis Guzman are very funny as members of the anger management class. Woody Harrelson turns up as a transvestite, Harry Dean Stanton plays a cranky blind man, John C. Reilly plays an monk, and Heather Graham plays a skinny woman with weight issues. These folks all provide a laugh or two. Jack Nicholson manages to provide some fun just by being Jack, despite the fact that he is playing a rather poorly written character. For a long time, Nicholson had a real talent for picking projects that were both classy and had commercial appeal. How did he wind up in this movie? Considering that Nicholson has only offered six performances in the past decade, it's a shame that this had to be one of them.
Anger Management is diverting and amusing on occasion, but hardly the sort of thing anyone but diehard Sandler fans are going to watch more than once. The film doesn't benefit immensely from the hi-def transfer, so the most I can recommend for this disc is a rental.
The film is guilty, and is sentenced to spend 20 hours in anger management
class with Dr. Rydell.
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Scales of Justice
• Commentary with director Peter Segal and star Adam Sandler
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