After a misunderstood airplane altercation, mild-mannered and non-confrontational executive assistant Dave Buznik (Adam Sandler) is put in the care of anger management therapist Dr Buddy Rydell (Jack Nicholson). As Dave meets the highly volatile and unpredictable patients in his class, he is bewildered by Buddy’s unorthodox, confrontational approach to therapy, and subsequently horrified when Buddy moves in with him. Dave’s poet girlfriend, Linda (Marisa Tomei), patiently waits for things to get back on track, but Buddy has other ideas.
Review by Louise Keller:
Anger Management has all the ingredients for a brilliant situation comedy zinging with originality and outright audaciousness, but I’m gritting my teeth and quietly chanting ‘goosefraba’, because it never makes the grade. (Goosefraba is an old Eskimo word, but you’ll have to see the film to learn more.) Sure, there are some insanely wild ideas and a few funny moments, but it ends up as a pretty mediocre and disappointing affair. Especially as watching Adam Sandler and Jack Nicholson in action has to be some kind of Endorphin Treat in itself. But everything is overdone and many scenes that should have us aching with uncontrollable laughter, fall as flat as the fried eggs that Dr Buddy hurls onto the kitchen floor. But before Buddy hurls the eggs (that’s after he has moved in with poor old Dave, who resorts to sleeping on the floor with his girlfriend’s teddy bear), we join the Anger Management Group and meet some of Buddy’s other loony patients including John Turturro’s psycho, Luiz Guzman’s flamboyant Lou and the scene stealing, slinky lesbian duo who love threesomes but not as much as they love each other. Then there’s a seemingly non-stop torrent of top Hollywood talent like John C. Reilly as the former bully, now-converted Buddhist monk, Woody Harrelson’s sleezy German transvestite from Lichensiedichen, and Heather Graham’s divinely fat-obsessed weirdo. Even John McEnroe pops up for a brief, very funny (and for once, not overdone) moment. Marisa Tomei’s Linda is wonderfully normal and spontaneous and acts like a sanity-barometer; Tomei is consistently good all the time. The best thing about Anger Management is its unpredictability. That’s what manages to keep us on edge, and whether it is the madness of the scene when Buddy gets Dave to sing West Side Story’s ‘I Feel Pretty’ while stationary on a bridge in the midst of peak hour traffic, or the inspired scenes with a ginger cat wearing fat-suits (don’t ask!), there is a certain delight in trying to make out where this lunacy is going. Needless to say, the course of true love never runs smoothly, and if you thought the proposal scene in The Wedding Planner was memorable, wait for this most extravagantly produced one, before a scene of thousands. And just when you think the whole harebrained plot has gone totally to pot, there’s a crazy turn-around, and a resolution that kinda satisfies. Kinda. But it should have been sensational.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Anger Management lesson No 1: don’t laugh AT the script, laugh WITH it; your ticket is a small price to pay for a session in self control. Comedy lesson No 1: funny ideas don’t automatically make a funny film. Good writing does. Having a funny idea is what writers should dread most as they sit down at the keyboard; having several in a string is a cause for profound fear. These ideas seduce the writer with illusions of laughing audiences. The premise of Anger Management is a parallel of Analyze This or That, in which an unlikely patient is handed over to an unlikely specialist for therapy. The characters are cartoons, though, and the premise is the entire foundation for the screenplay. The only thing that keeps the film afloat is the energy and desperation of a few good men, the occasional woman and a marvellous bloat-coated cat, whose combined star qualities glue the broken screenplay together. But not for105 minutes. It begins with great promise on board a plane with a well observed scene. It’s overplayed and overwritten, but we indulge the filmmaker at this point: a mouse of a man (Sandler) is seated next to Jack Nicholson in his more effusive and objectionably loud mode. Sandler’s quiet nerd wants a set of headphones, and has to ask a couple of times. This meek request is blown out of all proportion and escalated by the flight crew and he’s soon in court facing assault charges. Charlie Chaplin could have made this sequence, so pure is its comic concept of the victim ending up as perceived perpetrator. Injustice triggers our empathy, character engages our emotions. But then the script, unlike the plane, takes a nosedive and bottoms out in cheap gags to fill in time where imagination and observation should be. As it probes around for a workable ending, the script slides into sentimental slush that undoes all its attempts at bravado and, as is modern Hollywood’s wont, lays everything on so thick we don’t get a look-in ourselves, emotionally. Anger Management proves how hard it is to make a really good comedy today, no matter the budget or the cast or the funny idea.
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Unfavourable: 1 (Andrew)
Mixed: 1 (Louise)
ANGER MANAGEMENT (M)
CAST: Jack Nicholson, Adam Sandler, Marisa Tomei, Conrad Goode, Heather Graham, Luis Guzmán, Woody Harrelson
PRODUCER: Barry Bernardi, Derek Dauchy, Todd Garner, Jack Giarraputo, John Jacobs, Joe Roth
DIRECTOR: Peter Segal
SCRIPT: David Dorfman
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Donald McAlpine
EDITOR: Jeff Gourson
MUSIC: Teddy Castellucci
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Alan Au
RUNNING TIME: 106 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Columbia TriStar
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: April 17, 2003
VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Columbia TriStar Entertainment
VIDEO RELEASE: September 24, 2002