Review: Anger Management

by Jake Sproul

Rating: (out of )

If you frequent this website (Ruth), then you know that I strongly dislike Adam Sandler. His buffoonery does nothing for me, and his past comedies are so bad I think they are illegal (see: Mr. Deeds). In Anger Management, Sandler takes his first real crack at a buddy comedy (calling Big Daddy a buddy comedy is a real stretch in my book), with Jack Nicholson of all people as his comedic partner. Even more surprising, its Sandler who plays the straight man! Anger Management is far from perfect, but considering the name “Sandler” appears on the marquee, this is a very pleasant surprise. And getting to see Jack play Jack for the first time in a while is certainly a real treat.

Adam Sandler and Jack Nicholson are such opposites that they work together brilliantly. Adam Sandler is the man behind the “Hanukah Song” and the horrible Mr. Deeds remake, and is the idol of 13 year olds everywhere. Jack Nicholson on the other hand has three Oscars and has been nominated many more times, and is the idol for every wannabee actor everywhere. When you put these two gentlemen together, the sparks fly, and their charisma certainly helps to carry this film to heights the script could never take it alone.

Dave Buznik is the everyman Adam Sandler has perfected. He is a pushover, who gets verbally abused and passed over for promotions by his boss, and since an unfortunate bully-attack at a young age, Dave cannot kiss his beautiful girlfriend Linda, or anyone else for that matter. After a huge misunderstanding on an airplane flight, Buznik, quite possibly the most even tempered man on the planet, gets sentenced to anger management under the supervision of Dr. Buddy Rydell, who just might need some anger management himself.

Anger Management represents something I thought I would never see: a quality comedy starring Adam Sandler. The script by first time pen David Dorfman is exceptional for a Sandler produced comedy. Considering the novice background of both screenwriter and director, a perfectly written and directed film is hard to fathom. True to form, a major problem does exist. The finale which required one too many events to be comprehendible (I had to make a flow-chart to remember all of the events leading to the twist ending) surely hurt the film. Like with anything though, the ending can be spun to be interpreted as a good thing. While not pulled-off correctly, the ending does bring something that has never been seen in a Sandler movie before: inventiveness. While the half-hearted conceptual twist during the final moments of the film doesn’t quite work, they have avoided the major landmine of a predictable finale. Despite this flaw, Anger Management’s site gags and skits are more funny than anything Sandler did on his entire run an SNL. A particularly bright spot in a film filled with proverbial lamps is a rendition of “I Feel Pretty” during morning traffic on the George Washington bridge, which is laugh out loud hilarious.

Part of the fun on a big budget comedy is the cameos. Last year in Austin Powers in Goldmember, an opening sequence featuring Tom Cruise, Gwyneth Paltrow, Danny DeVito, Kevin Spacey, Steven Spielberg and Brittany Spears had audiences hollowing like I have never seen one do before. While Anger Management does nothing to this effect, an appropriate and well timed cameo by tennis bad-boy John McEnroe made me laugh. (As with all good humor, all those 13 year old ingrates were scratching their heads, saying to themselves “Who’s that?,” while anxiously waiting for the bathroom humor which, thank God, never came.) Other notables to make cameos include Woody Harrelson, who’s role can actually be classified as supporting rather than a cameo, former New York major Rudy Guilliani (who probably again had those loyal Sandler fans scratching their heads), and New York Yankees star pitcher Rodger Clemens.

I am cheating a little by giving Anger Management 3.5 stars. As good, heart-warming, and hilarious as Anger Management is, its occasional blemishes would under normal circumstances render the film a three-star rating. The extra half star, which visually separates the exceptional from the good, is awarded here as more of a vote of confidence in future Adam Sandler projects of this quality. Although his next project, Fifty First Kisses reunites the actor with Wedding Singer co-star Drew Barrymore and his typical character (for a definition of “Adam Sandler’s typical character” go rent Billy Madison, Happy Gilmore, et. al), this has no barring on the fact that I left Anger Management with a big grin on my face.

© 2003 Jacob Sproul

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