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Sandler and Nicholson together at last
by Ryan Wiederkehr on Aug 20, 2004
There is a saying that people in Hollywood use to sum up the importance of getting audiences into theaters: See the poster.
If you own a television and have turned it on recently, or if you've been near a MUNI bus over the past couple of months, you've most definitely seen the poster for Anger Management. Chances are also good that you've thought one of the following:
"Sandler and Jack definitely had some airbrush work done. There's no way their teeth can be that straight and white."
"I wonder how long those two had to pose like that, all angry with their noses pressed together."
"We're all going to Hell."
My point is: this movie has been advertised all over Kingdom Come and then some. Which brings us back to a theory I've had for years, and one that I've introduced in past film reviews. It's axiomatic: the more hype a movie generates for itself, the more a studio spends on advertising, the more putrid the reek. Triple X, anyone?
Let's test the theory again, shall we?
Meet Dave Buznik (Sandler). He's got about as much sack as a shaved kitten. For crying out loud, he is even embarrassed to kiss his Dulce de Leche flavored girlfriend (Marisa Tomei) in public. The Quakers didn't wear hoop skirts this big and billowy; Buznik is a mess, constantly being shoved around and manipulated.
So Buznik gets on a plane. A swarthy gent has decided to take his seat, so the defeated hero shuffles to the rear of the plane and takes a seat near Jack Nicholson. There's some sort of fracas on the plane and Buznik is falsely accused of assaulting the flight attendant.
And because the crux of any comedy worth its salt is a creative sentence handed down by some above-the-law judge, Mr. Buznik's sentence is to spend some time with an anger management therapist, Dr. Buddy Rydell. Who should Doctor Rydell be but Jack Nicholson, the very guy next to whom Buznik sat on the plane! Crazy. But, it's a small world, afterall.
Buznik doesn't think he has an anger problem, but Dr. Rydell believes he's one of the more dangerous cases, one who internalizes all of the rage and then eventually snaps, killing a roomful of people before turning the gun upon himself. That kind of a guy.
The plot's thin. And the twist at the end is onionskin thin, in addition to being a total ripoff of a certain David Fincher - Michael Douglass - Sean Penn collaboration, although I won't say which.
Here's the thing, though: since when has a plot mattered in a comedy? It's the laughs, stupid. A comedy should be judged by whether or not your stomach muscles, muscles that are weak from a pale, sedentary existence, hurt the next day.
Anger Management is a funny movie. It's not as funny as What About Bob, or European Vacation, or even M.V.P. - Most Valuable Primate (seriously, you should see a chimp on ice skates. Priceless!), but it is a funny movie.
John Turturro steals the show, but what else is new. He plays a member of Dr. Buddy Rydell's therapy group, which also includes Paul Thomas Anderson staple Luis Guzman portraying a light-in-the-loafers Puerto Rican with a penchant for mesh half-shirts and bling-bling.
And finally, there are a number of funny cameos, first and foremost being Woody Harrelson. Other cameos include Rudy Giuliani, Derek Jeter, and The Rocket (Roger Clemens), the latter two mailing it in with waxy, non-inspiring performances.
Nicholson is great, too. But if you hate Sandler, none of the performances in the world would make you like this movie. There's no way around him, but he's relatively well-behaved. Only a handful of times does he lapse into the classic Sandlerian episodes of meltdown and anger-violence.
The movie's humor is lowest-common-denominator type humor. It's juvenile and at times cheap, like most Sandler humor. But if that's okay with you, then by all means, go sit down and watch Anger Management, because there are definitely scenes at which you'll laugh your pasty, worthless ass off. I did.
1 hour 41 minutes
by Ryan Wiederkehr on Aug 20, 2004