Writer David Dorfman, director Peter Segal and star Adam Sandler missed a golden opportunity in "Anger Management," a comedy bereft of laughs about a milquetoast office drone and designer of fat feline fashions (?) who is sentenced to rage therapy after an incident on an airline.
The incident: His repeated polite requests for a headset to watch the in-flight movie are absurdly mistaken for aggression by a flight crew with post-9/11 jitters. The missed opportunity: The concept's punchline should have been that he really is a rage-a-holic and the calm version of events we see is his skewed perspective of normalcy.
Instead, the picture sticks with the notions that typically dim-bulb Sandler (insert empty-eyed double-take head-cocks here) really is a misunderstood nice guy, and the actor fails to find a single genuine laugh in the story's goofball gimmick -- which is that his nutzo court-appointed therapist (Jack Nicholson, volume turned up to 11) moves in with him and makes his life a living hell.
Nevermind that there's no explanation as to why a supposedly famous, in-demand shrink would do such a thing (why not a funny subplot about the guy being evicted?). Nevermind that the therapy Nicholson applies has nothing to do with anger management and everything to do with assertiveness training. Such points might be worth finding fault with if the movie were funny, but it's just not. At all. Not once.
Sandler goes to Nicholson's group therapy sessions where sight-gag caricatures are rolled out for cheap rim shots. There's the queeny vato (Luis Guzman) who beat up his boss, the high-strung war veteran (John Turturro in hyperactive bug-eyed mode) and the bisexual porn slut couple who aren't there for laughs but just to make out from time to time, insuring a teenage-boy-friendly PG-13 and deliberately skirting the R that would keep that target audience from getting in.
Nicholson takes over Sanlder's life, tapping his phones, throwing away his CDs, disallowing caffeine, demanding his eggs over-easy and trying to spoon Sandler in bed (there's no couch to sleep on). But Nicholson overshoots any potential humor here. His character is so grating that he's even harder for a viewer to tolerate than he is for Sandler, who is at least on the same side of the screen and thus has the option of strangling the guy.
The film's idea of therapy is a series of sketch-comedy scenes in which Nicholson goes to work with Sandler (looking over his shoulder and tweaking the nose of his mean boss), Nicholson makes Sandler hit on a psychotic bar tramp (Heather Graham in a lame cameo), and then Nicholson puts the moves on Sandler's girlfriend (Marisa Tomei).
The jokes are transparent, the behavior is contradictory and the ultimate "surprise" resolution is not only nonsensical, it's insulting to think Sandler's character wouldn't be finally truly outraged by having it revealed to him.
Packed with pointlessly crazy cameos (Rudy Giuliani at a ballgame, Bobby Knight and John McEnroe in therapy, Woody Harrelson as a transvestite hooker) that seem to be more important to the director than congruous character development, "Anger Management" is the kind of simplistic movie in which everyone's problems are solved not because of any emotional effort or change of heart, but simply because the orchestra swells, the cymbals crash, the hero kisses the girl and the credits roll.
It's nothing short of a comedy catastrophe and a criminal waste of talent.
Run time: 106 mins
In Theaters: Friday 11th April 2003
Box Office USA: $133.8M
Box Office Worldwide: $135.6M
Distributed by: Sony Pictures Entertainment
Production compaines: Columbia Pictures, Revolution Studios, Happy Madison Productions
Contactmusic.com: 0.5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 43%
Fresh: 82 Rotten: 107
IMDB: 6.2 / 10
Director: Peter Segal
Starring: Adam Sandler as Dave Buznik, Jack Nicholson as Dr. Buddy Rydell, Marisa Tomei as Linda, Luis Guzmán as Lou, Woody Harrelson as Galaxia / Security Guard Gary, John Turturro as Chuck, Kevin Nealon as Sam, Dave's Lawyer, Allen Covert as Andrew, Heather Graham as Kendra, Krista Allen as Stacy, Derek Jeter as Himself