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Anger Management Review

By Shawn McKenzie 04/11/2003

I guess there are two types of people in this world: Adam Sandler fans and Adam Sandler haters.  I happen to be in the former camp, as evidenced by my reviews of Mr. Deeds, 8 Crazy Nights, and the excellent Punch Drunk Love.  Most other critics happen to be in the latter camp, and his new film, Anger Management, will keep them there…but not me.


Dave Buznik (Sandler) is a timid executive assistant at a pet products company.  He lets everyone walk all over him.  At work, he lets his boss, Frank Head (Kurt Fuller), take credit for his work (including the fat cat clothesline he is currently developing), and he doesn’t have the guts to ask for the promotion he was promised.  He won’t kiss his girlfriend, Linda (Marisa Tomei), in public, because he was traumatized by a bully as a kid while trying to kiss a girl.  He won’t even confront Linda’s ex-boyfriend, Andrew (Allen Covert), who keeps trying to get her back by acting like her concerned “friend.”  One day, while on a business flight, he is bothered by a rude man next to him on the plane.  The man is watching a movie and laughing while Dave has been trying to get some sleep.  Instead of dealing with the man, he decides to order some headphones as well and watch the movie with him.  When he asks the flight attendant (Nancy Walls) for some headphones, she ignores him, and then argues with him on his insistence of the headphones.  The air marshal (Isaac C. Singleton Jr.) gets involved, and it becomes an assault situation somehow.  He is charged with assaulting a flight attendant during an airline trip where he supposedly lost control of his temper.  Dave’s lawyer, Sam (Kevin Nealon), was ineffective in his defense, and Judge Daniels (the late, great Lynne Thigpen) sentences him to twenty-hours of sessions with anger management therapist Dr. Buddy Rydell (Jack Nicholson.)  Buddy turns out to be the rude man from the plane.  At his first group meeting, Dave meets Buddy’s other patients.  They include flamboyantly gay Lou (Luis Guzman), nervous Grenada war vet Chuck (John Turturro), and porn star lovers Stacy (Krista Allen) and Gina (January Jones.)  Buddy assigns Dave to be Chuck’s “rage buddy,” and when Chuck gets Dave involved in a barroom brawl with a blind man (Harry Dean Stanton), Judge Daniels sentences Dave to a year in prison.  Buddy shows up at the trial and convinces the judge to let him move in with Dave for thirty days of intensive therapy.  Dave is concerned that Buddy may be crazy, because his methods of therapy are a little odd.  They include making him late for work by forcing him to sing show tunes on a busy bridge, arranging an encounter with a transvestite hooker named Galaxia (Woody Harrelson), making him pick up a good-looking woman named Kendra (Heather Graham), and confronting the bully (John C. Reilly) from his childhood.  During his therapy, Dave finds the rage he never knew he had, and letting some of it out may actually improve his life.


Why oh why does this man have such a spell over me?  I’m a movie critic…doesn’t that mean I’m supposed to automatically hate Sandler?  I think it is because, while I appreciate films on a movie critic level, I’m still your average Joe-shmo moviegoer, and Sandler’s immature style of comedy appeals to me.  This movie had the whole audience at the screening howling with laughter, and I doubt there was a pretentious thought in the whole crowd.  Sure, I’m a fanboy geek who usually follows directors rather than actors, but if a movie makes me bust a gut, I’ll give it a good rating.


Now, what specifically about this movie was good?  Sandler essentially plays the same character he played in Punch Drunk Love, only instead of having the restrained Paul Thomas Anderson environment, he is square in the middle of Happy Madison Land.  This includes self-mocking cameos, “Saturday Night Live” flunky appearances, and of course, someone saying, “You can do it!”  (Surprisingly, it was not by Rob Schneider this time.)  You almost have to be a regular Sandler fan to enjoy it, and I think most people who will go to see this film are fans already.  Speaking of mocking themselves, Nicholson as the crazy therapist is inspired.  There is a point in the movie where he takes a baseball bat to a car widow, slyly poking fun at his similar real-life incident.


The movie isn’t perfect though.  There were a couple of tasteless moments, and the end is hard to swallow.  It feels like a cop-out conclusion to the hilarious escapades of Sandler and Nicholson.  I don’t want to give it away, but I hope it doesn’t ruin the whole movie for you.  Fortunately, it didn’t ruin it for me.

Anger Management isn’t Sandler’s greatest achievement (I’m sorry, but I still give that honor to Punch Drunk Love), but it will satisfy fans of Sandler, and maybe even fans of Nicholson.  Since there are more regular people in this country than movie critics, I predict more people in general will like this film than hate it.  I’ll be right there with you, laughing along.


Ratings System:


Catch this movie at the theater if you can...

Wait until it comes out on video...

Wait until it plays on HBO, Showtime, Starz, etc...

Demand your money back, even if you saw it for free!

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