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ANGER MANAGEMENT

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Adam Sandler, Jack Nicholson, Marisa Tomei, Luis Guzman, Woody Harrelson, John Turturro
Director: Peter Segal
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, French Dolby Digital 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.40:1
Studio: Columbia Tri Star
Features: See Review
Length: 106 Minutes
Release Date: September 16, 2003

“I want you to go over there and ask that woman out.”

“No, I got a girlfriend.”

“I’m not telling you to elope with her, Dave. Just go over there and flirt a little bit.”

“Flirting is cheating’s ugly cousin, Buddy. I’m not a cheater.”

“Is it considered cheating if you were passed around the cell block like a peace pipe? Because that is what’s on the docket for you if you don’t go over there and ask her out.”

Film ***

If you’ve seen any of the trailers for Anger Management, but are wondering if the movie is as funny as it promises to be, I’m happy to report that it is, and then some. First off, the notion of Adam Sandler and Jack Nicholson appearing in the same movie has to be seen, since they come across as the least likely actors to ever appear by one another’s side. Thanks to a pitch-perfect comedy premise, the funny and zany Sandler and the maddeningly intense Nicholson are brought together in a movie that allows each actor to do what he does best.

In a plot that works in a dark and distinct manner, Adam Sandler plays Dave Buznik, an everyday businessman who happens to be shy when it comes to display any public emotion. This was caused by an embarrassing incident that happened when Dave was a kid. While on a business trip, Dave is mistakenly accused of losing his temper to a flight attendant, whom he is somehow later accused of assaulting. Even though Dave knows he’s innocent, the court immediately finds him guilty, and orders him to undergo anger management therapy.

Enter Dr. Buddy Rydell (Nicholson), Dave’s assigned therapist who carries out very non-traditional forms of therapy. Dave insists to Dr. Rydell that he has no anger problem whatsoever, and when he finds himself in a group therapy meeting with a basketball maniac, a pair of crazed lesbian lovers, and a plain-old psycho veteran of Grenada, Dave knows he doesn’t belong there. However, the doctor’s unique methods test Dave in a strange way, and at times result in Dave pretty much doing what he was wrongfully accused of in the first place.

Before long, Rydell assigns Dave a personal anger ally (John Turturro), and his whirlwind of misunderstanding, coincidental trouble seems to escalate from there, resulting in a barroom brawl where Dave is afterward accused of attacking a waitress and a blind man, when in fact he was trying to break up the brawl, which was started by the blind man.

Concluding that Dave is in dire need of strict therapy, Dr. Rydell moves into his apartment, shares the man’s bed, and insists that he supervises Dave’s every doing during his daily routine. This means he must be at Dave’s side while he’s at work, or even in the company of his fiancée, Linda (Marisa Tomei). The therapy may be more than it was cracked up to be when Dave soon suspects the doctor of possibly trying to lure his woman away from him.

Often in comedies, plot scenarios in which characters become caught up in incidents of pure misunderstanding seem to wear thin instantly. Not with Anger Management, which somehow structures the familiar formula in the right way. It places Sandler’s character in one bizarre situation, and escalates from that point in a madly funny way. The supreme joy of the movie is watching Nicholson, in perhaps his most insanely funny performance since Batman, toy with Sandler’s limited patience in the most embarrassing of situations, the highlight of which is demanding that Dave sing “I Feel Pretty” from West Side Story while in morning NYC traffic.

The movie’s only weakness comes near the end, which forces Sandler’s character to delve into an emotional speech in order to win the love of his life back. At the same time, this scene ends up concluding on an ironic note, but it just felt to me that the makers of the movie were relying on the sentimental that concludes in nearly every Sandler movie. It was what killed his Mr. Deeds for me.

That aside, Anger Management is easily one of Adam Sandler’s funniest comedies to date. After delivering a remarkable revelation in Punch-Drunk Love, Sandler rightfully returns to his trademark roots. And unlike his usual fare, Sandler’s performance isn’t one-note, and comes across as his one of his more satisfying performances. In fact, his character is very much like Barry Egan in P.D.L., but in a more conventional fashion.

As for Nicholson, this performance is something of a revelation. He won’t win any awards for it, but fans of the legendary actor will no doubt react with shrieking laughter when they here some of the unforgettably funny lines, which I will savor for you to hear. Jack is known for letting it all out in almost all of his performances, and his on-screen insanity has never been more extreme than in this movie.

I can easily say that Anger Management is close to being the funniest film of this year, alongside killer laugh fests Head of State and Malibu’s Most Wanted. 2003 has seen more flat comedies than funny ones. The biggest laughs, believe it or not, have been in action fare like Bad Boys II and Hollywood Homicide. But in terms of straight laced comedy, Anger Management hits the mark for insane, endless laughs.

BONUS TRIVIA: There are countless cameos in the film, with Heather Graham, Rudy Giuliani, and Bobby Knight, to name a few.

Video ****

Columbia Tri Star has been on quite a roll this year in terms of all around quality of discs. Anger Management is yet another solid release that can be added to the list of terrific discs that include Identity, Tears of the Sun, and Punch-Drunk Love. The anamorphic picture is as every bit as sharp and clear as we’ve come to expect from CTS, and colors are as vibrant as can possibly be. Comedies are rarely shot in scope format, but this movie is fortunate to have that bonus, because it results in a much lively picture. A full screen version is also available.

Audio ***1/2

The 5.1 mix demonstrates that even comedies can get the grandest of audio treatments. The presentation manages to make the most of its locations and set pieces, and allow nearly all the moments of physical comedy to be played out in a strong form. Dialogue is consistently clear and the frequent music playbacks get a nice enough boost, as well.

Features ****

CTS does it again with yet another wonderful package of extras. To start off, there is a commentary track with Adam Sandler and director Peter Segal, two featurettes; “Skull Session” and “My Buddy, Jack”, an interactive game called “Do You Have Anger Problems?” Also featured are deleted scenes, a blooper reel, a trailer, and bonus trailers for As Good As it Gets, Eight Crazy Nights, Hollywood Homicide, Mona Lisa Smile, Mr. Deeds, Radio, S.W.A.T., and Peter Pan.

Summary:

Anger Management is the perfect prescription for non stop, mad laughs. Adam Sandler and Jack Nicholson butt heads and deliver some insanely funny moments, just as one would expect them to.