Review: Anger Management

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Dave Buznik (Adam Sandler) isn't exactly the kind of guy one would expect to find in an anger management self-help group. In fact, Dave is the kind of guy that most people would describe as being quite mild-mannered; perhaps even a little meek or timid. As the executive assistant (e.g. secretary) to an obnoxiously fat-headed boss, Dave constantly finds himself being trampled on and taken advantage of. Meanwhile, as the boyfriend to the sweet and loving Linda (Marisa Tomei), insecure Dave cannot help but have great feelings of inadequacy and jealousy -- not to mention the fact that he can't even bring himself to kiss his own girlfriend if there are people watching.

So how is it exactly that the docile and unassuming Dave Buznik suddenly finds himself being ordered into the care of anger management guru, Dr. Buddy Rydell (Jack Nicholson)? Well, to be quite honest, the "how" isn't really that important -- but for those who may be curious; Dave is unfairly sentenced by the court to undergo anger management therapy after a rather absurd mix up on an airplane, involving the supposed assault of a female flight attendant. What is important however, is the obvious comedic wackiness one would expect to ensue as a result of the unlikely pairing of straight-man Buznik, and the insanely unconventional Dr. Rydell. After all, this is the set-up for Anger Management, the new Adam Sandler comedy opening this weekend.

It would seem that Adam Sandler has quite the knack for starring in movies that manage to be filled with funny moments, yet somehow just never prove to be funny movies. For the most part, the typical Sandler movie is nothing more than a hodgepodge of comedic "bits" or gags (usually involving references to either the penis or homosexuality -- or both) strung together like the low-budget, popcorn Christmas tree decorations that grade-school children make during the holiday season. Perhaps a vestigial remnant of his sketch comedy days on SNL, the majority of Sandler's movies tend to lack an overall cohesiveness, whereby the humor that is present, ultimately tends to be quite isolated, and therefore lacking a sense of comedic and narrative flow -- and Anger Management is no different.

Despite looking like a step forward in the Sandler cannon of comedy, and featuring the likes of multi-Academy Award winner Jack Nicholson, Anger Management not only proves to be a text-book example of a typical Sandler movie, but sadly, ends up being one of the more disappointing ones as well. Perhaps it is unfair to base one's expectations on a few movie trailers and a couple of TV commercials (well, not really; after all, that's what movie ads are made for), but Anger Management had the look of a project that possibly could have been a much more significant testament to the adolescent, yet strangely satisfying talents of Mr. Sandler. True, perhaps expectations were somewhat elevated by the presence of Jack Nicholson -- fresh on the heels of his Oscar-nominated role in About Schmidt -- or Sandler's much celebrated venture into the world of drama, in last year's Punch-Drunk Love, but Anger Management initially begs to be considered as a rather fitting follow-up for both Sandler and Nicholson.

Instead, what one finds with Anger Management is a highly inconsistent comedy, in which director Peter Segal basically sleepwalks through a routine and rudimentary script by David Dorfman, thereby allowing the movie's two leads to resort to rather typical and perhaps even unimaginative performances. Conceivably, with a little fine-tuning during pre-production by the likes of the director, the screenwriter, and maybe even Sandler and Nicholson, there could have been a last minute effort to avoid Anger Management's ultimate descent into the realm of comedic and commercial mediocrity.

Seemingly overflowing with a plethora of oddball characters, and esoteric source material to poke fun at, Anger Management could have easily been an interesting comedy, and a fitting platform to further examine the strange and oddly humorous bouts of rage and violence inherent in pretty much every character Adam Sandler has portrayed on the big screen. Adding further to the sense of neglected potentional surrounding Anger Management is the presence -- or mis-presence -- of Sandler's highly talented, and often used movie buddies. Anger Management finds the return of John Turturro (Turturro played the role of the faithful butler in lat year's Mr. Deeds) playing the violence prone Chuck; and even the grossly under-appreciated Luis Guzman shows up as the highly effeminate rage-o-holic, Lou -- both characters being fellow anger management members. However, instead of being incorporated into the comedic fold -- which mostly centers on Sandler and Nicholson constantly sparring with one another -- the fine talents of actors like Turturro and Guzman are instead rerouted to the sidelines, and essentially demoted to the level of peripheral comic back-up.

As with most Adam Sandler flicks, Anger Management is not a complete waste. Fortunately, there are a handful of scenes throughout the movie which will likely satisfy even those viewers who do not fancy themselves connoisseurs of Sandler's idiosyncratic buffoonery. Yet, anyone familiar with the movie's trailer beforehand, will come to realize quite quickly that the best of Anger Management is actually on display for all to see in the four minute previews, ironically enough designed to advertise the movie on a whole. Hence, Anger Management's appeal isn't really that debatable of an issue. Ultimately disappointing and comically inconsistent when viewed as a complete work; still present are the typically Sandler-esque funny moments viewers have come to expect, not to mention good old Jack acting crazy as a cuckoo. Yet, despite the occasional laugh, Anger Management will only prove to be the movie that could have possibly been an appropriate follow-up to Punch-Drunk Love -- perhaps elevating Sandler from the level of goofball comedy to comedy -- but in the end, the Adam Sandler movie that might even disappoint the most die-hard of Adam Sandler fans.

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