Our review of Anger Management (Blu-Ray), published May 15th, 2008, is also available.
Feel the love.
When you think nutty koo-koo, who comes to mind first? Charles Manson? Crispin Glover? Or is it everyone's favorite leading character actor/insanity case, Jack Nicholson? Now take one of Hollywood's most popular (and profitable) comedians, Adam Sandler. Let's pretend—and this is a big "what if"—that Hollywood decided to make a movie starring Sandler and Nicholson. What if? What if…
Well, comedy fans…your prayers have been answered with Anger Management. Starring Sandler, Nicholson, Oscar winner Marisa Tomei (My Cousin Vinney), John Turturro (Mr. Deeds), Luis Guzman (Out of Sight), Woody Harrelson (The Cowboy Way), and a host of cameo players, Anger Management makes its DVD debut courtesy of Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment.
Facts of the Case
David Buznik (Sandler) is about to learn the meaning of true Anger Management. Aboard an airplane bound for a business meeting, Dave is mistaken for a hostile passenger by one of the flight attendants. Through a series of very bizarre events, Dave is ordered by the courts to either A.) spend a year in prison or B.) attend 20 hours of anger management classes. Choosing option B, Dave finds himself in the seemingly insane hands of Dr. Buddy Rydell (Nicholson). Rydell's therapy treatments are unorthodox, to say the least—after a second incident occurs wherein Dave hits a barmaid, Rydell moves in with Dave for a month to ensure minute by minute treatment. Threatened with either a year in prison or Rydell in his home, Dave reluctantly agrees to Rydell's intrusive presence. And intrusive it is! Rydell sleeps in the same bed with Dave (naked!), takes him to see his childhood bully (who's now become a peaceful Tibetan monk), and eventually interferes with Dave's relationship with his long time girlfriend, Linda (Tomei). Suddenly Dave's life spins out of control with only Dr. Rydell at the wheel!
Saturday Night Live sure has been a breeding ground for new comedic movie stars. The first, of course, was Chevy Chase. As the flood doors opened we were given dozens of new stars, some bigger than others. Eddie Murphy, John Belushi, Will Ferrell, Gilda Radner, Billy Crystal, Dan Aykroyd, Chris Farley, Bill Murray, Molly Shannon, Phil Hartman, Terry Sweeney (just kidding!)…the list is endless. One of the most popular is Adam Sandler, and there seem to be two kinds of folks on the planet: those who like Sandler, and those who don't.
Up until Punch Drunk Love, I was in the second camp. Now I'm hovering somewhere in between, which I didn't think was possible. I am not a fan of Sandler's sophomoric efforts (Happy Gilmore, Big Daddy), yet I kinda liked Little Nicky. Then came Punch Drunk Love, a movie that was perfectly suited for Sandler's personality. Watching Sandler I was struck by how much inner rage his character displayed—it was the kind of anger that is pushed down and repressed until it bubbles to the surface and causes major catastrophes. Those who disliked Sandler suddenly witnessed a new side of the comic actor—one with more wit and intelligence. Sandler then made Anger Management, and with this single effort slid back into square one.
Anger Management is not the worst film in Sandler's canon. That I can say this is in no small thanks to a tolerance I've built up over the years to his antics. In Anger Management, Sandler is paired with Jack Nicholson in what could have been inspired lunacy. Instead, the film is a by-the-numbers bore that sports a few mediocre chuckles and nothing more. It also has Nicholson arching his eyebrows demonically, but like everything else in the movie, the charm wears off quickly. Nicholson plays Buddy with only two kinds of emotion: sly helpfulness and manic intensity. Neither one is a very interesting choice.
In a way, Anger Management is frustrating to watch—the missed comedic possibilities are mind boggling. How many times do we have to watch Sandler playing the same old whiney/blustering character? And Nicholson seems to be on some sort of auto pilot here—it's as if he's letting out steam for being given such a mediocre screenplay. The funniest moments are given to the cameo appearances, and if that's the case you know you're in trouble. When sports stars John McEnroe and Bobby Knight get bigger laughs than stars like Sandler and Nicholson, you've got a surefire recipe for disaster. The best scenes in the film are when Sandler and Nicholson are interacting on a one-on-one level without any interference from the story. It's here that we see what this movie could have been. When Nicholson's character flings a plate of eggs at the wall then asks Sandler why he did that, Sandler's response is priceless: "Because I wouldn't spoon with you last night?" It's in these little moments that Anger Management shines.
Disappointingly, those moments are few and far between. Even the appearance of John Turturro as an anger-holic, Luis Guzman as a flaming anger patient, and Woody Harrelson as a drag queen (in one of the movie's funniest bits) can't save the day. Director Peter Segal (The Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult, Tommy Boy) has done better work. So have Sandler and Nicholson. And so can you by renting a more worthwhile comedy.
Anger Management is presented in 2.40:1 anamorphic widescreen. Generally speaking, this transfer is far better than the movie itself. Colors and black levels all look spot on. There are no major flaws, save for a few instances of edge haloing. Dirt and grain is absent. I wouldn't consider Anger Management to be a perfect transfer, but it does the job that's needed and is a solid effort by Columbia. If you're as clinically insane as the film's two main characters, you can also seek out a 4:3 pan and scan version of the film—though I wouldn't advise it.
The soundtrack is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround in English and French. Directional effects and surround sounds are heard occasionally, but the bulk of this mix is front heavy with the music/original score being the most prominent feature. I noticed no noise compression or hiss in the mix. The dialogue, music, and effects are all very clear. This sound mix won't blow away your home theater system, but it doesn't need to—like the video presentation it's a decent match for the film. Also included on this disc are English and French subtitles.
I've stopped asking why such mediocre flicks like Anger Management are given special edition treatment while movies like the newly released titles like Nobody's Fool are bare bones discs. Here's a rundown of what's been included on this disc:
Commentary Track by Director Peter Segal and Adam Sandler: This commentary features a lot more laughs by Segal and Sandler than production information. Both men seem to really like the film—I'm glad someone did. This isn't a bad commentary track since some of the information provided (including casting info, cameo spots, et cetera) is mildly interesting. There is, however, a little too much ass kissing towards Rudy Giuliani and a few of the other cameo players. This is for hardcore Sandler fans only.
Do You Have Anger Problems?: This is a multiple choice question feature that has various cast and crew members asking you questions to see if you've got a hot temper. If you watched the movie, you should know the right answers. If not…well, what the hell are you even doing in the special features menu?!?!? Stupid mother f*@#ing a$$hole! Whoops, sorry…time for my session!
Deleted Scenes: There are four deleted scenes included under this menu ("Candy Store," "Burly Man," "Gas & Hospital" and "McEnroe"), each presented in non-anamorphic widescreen. Aside of the "McEnroe" scene, which spoofs John's intense sporting outbursts, most of these scenes were cut from the final film with good reason.
"Skull Session" and "My Buddy, Jack" Featurettes: "Skull Session" is your typical promotional piece that features lots of talking head interviews, clips from the film, behind-the-scenes footage, and outtakes. "My Buddy, Jack" is a personal ode to Jack Nicholson—everyone and their mother talks about how great Nicholson is and how much he brought to the movie. Neither of these featurettes is worth more than five minutes of your time.
Finally there is a "Blooper Reel" of the cast screwing up their lines, farting at each other, and giggling (ho-ho-ho), as well as theatrical trailers for Anger Management and multiple Columbia titles.
Anger Management's hit-to-miss ratio is pretty poor—I'd suggest checking out Sandler's Punch Drunk Love before spinning this dud. Since it made money at the box office, expect less good Sandler movies and more of the same.
Anger Management is sentenced to three years of script management.
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Scales of Justice
• Commentary Track by Director Peter Segal and Star Adam Sandler'
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