July 22, 2003 -- “Anger Management” is a pretty good idea for a movie that is not particularly well executed. It is partly redeemed by good performances by Adam Sandler and renowned actor Jack Nicholson, who turns in a glitzy comic performance as wacko psychiatrist Buddy Rydell.
Sandler (“Punch Drunk Love”) plays Dave Buznik, a talented dweeb who is pushed around by everyone. Through a set of truly bizarre circumstances, Buznik is sentenced to anger management therapy with Rydell. The mad psychiatrist sees Buznik as a man who represses his anger, letting it build up to dangerous levels. His approach is to constantly provoke Buznik until he explodes with anger. He does this by moving in with Buznik, trying to steal his girlfriend and doing other things to make him crazy with anger. Oddly enough this crazy therapy seems to work. Buznik does become more assertive in his relationships. One therapy session has Buznik confronting a bully who had humiliated him in grade school. The bully, Arnie Shankman (John C. Reilly of “Chicago”), now a Buddhist monk, is goaded into a fight by the now-assertive Buznik.
Buznik, however, must face a new problem, trying to win his girlfriend, Linda (Marisa Tomei of “In the Bedroom”) back from the smooth-talking Rydell. He is forced to make a desperate decision. This is a story, and a talented cast, that holds a lot of promise. Mostly, the film fails to deliver because it isn't edgy enough and it uses a plot device to turn the film into soft, gooey sentimental mush when it doesn't need to. The credibility of the story goes right out the window in the last act. The final plot twist serves only to make cheapen everything that had gone on before in the movie. I do have a soft spot for Adam Sandler's movies. I sometimes like them, even when they are manipulative trash, but this one is a bit disappointing, because it could have been so much better. There are about as many misses as hits in the joke department. There is also the usual number of dumb jokes and jokes in bad taste (like the joke about molesting a child).
Sandler specializes in downtrodden characters with a reservoir of anger, so this is not any kind of departure for him. Nicholson is very good at playing crazed, over-the-top characters like Buddy Rydell. It is good to see Nicholson playing comic characters again. He was brilliant in “About Schmidt” and he is very good in this film playing a much more active and energetic character. There are also a lot of good supporting performances like Reilly's angry monk, a funny cross-dressing Woody Harrelson, a pair of funny enraged anger management group members, Chuck (John Turturro of “O Brother Where Art Thou?”) and Lou (Luis Guzmán of “Confidence”). There are also a number of cameos by famous people like Roger Clemens, Rudolph Giuliani, Bobby Knight and Derek Jeter. This film has its moments and some of it is funny, but it isn't nearly as funny as it might have been. This film rates a C.
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