Reviewed by: Megan Basham
Starring: Adam Sandler, Jack Nicholson, Krista Allen, Marisa Tomei, Allen Covert | Directed by: Peter Segal | Produced by: Barry Bernardi, Derek Dauchy, Todd Garner, Jack Giarraputo | Written by: Dave Dorfman, David Dorfman | Distributor: Sony Pictures
Something the average, movie-going public needs to understand about critics is that when your job is to see at least one movie a week, like any other job, sometimes you just don’t feel like showing up. And that mood can affect your work. You get so tired of seeing the same plot lines week in and week out that you end up praising any indie-production that offers even the slightest variation on a tried and true theme. As such, it’s no wonder movie-reviewers often fall out of step with mainstream audiences and are quite rightly accused of occasionally losing touch with the general audience.
Ever gone to some whacked-out movie on the advice of Roger Ebert and left thinking, “this guy’s supposed to be an expert?!?” Well, what you were experiencing was probably the result of film-critic burnout. The poor man had seen so many sparkling, romantic comedies full of sparkling, romantic young actresses that suddenly watching three homely women talk about suicide and depression for two and a half hours seemed inexplicably entertaining. Forgive us. Obviously we do our best to set these emotional influences aside, but from time to time, they manage to creep in. And I have a feeling that Adam Sandler’s latest film, “Anger Management”, may be a just such a case of weary movie reviewers coming down a little too hard on a film that is simply trying to serve up what the audience is hungry for.
Is it fairly predictable? Yes. Does Sandler do all those little things his fans have grown to love? Yes. Is it still funny? Sometimes. And with the always eccentric Jack Nicholson thrown in the mix, “Anger Management” still manages to kick out a few surprises.
Here, Sandler plays Dave Buznik, an executive assistant who, no matter how unjust the situation or cruel the treatment, never loses his temper. Even when his boss takes credit for his pet-clothing designs (geared hysterically towards the “husky” kitty), Dave never raises his voice and seems content to watch another man steal his girlfriend simply because a childhood trauma has left him unable to stand up for himself.
That is until a series of outlandish events land him in group therapy with the world’s foremost anger authority, Dr. Buddy Rydell (Nicholson). Known for his unorthodox approach, Dr. Buddy’s mantra is “temper is the one thing you can’t get rid of by losing it.” He’s confident his new patient is an “implosive” rage-aholic and employs various methods designed to help Dave release his anger on an unsuspecting world.
Though he turned in a wonderfully understated performance in “About Schmidt”, there is something delicious about watching Jack be Jack—waggling eyebrows, wolfish grin, and all. In fact, without Nicholson’s obvious relish at getting to be himself again, the film could have easily been a total wash. As it is, despite its formulaic story line and over-emphasis on Adam Sandler-isms like constant intrusive cameos (Rudy Guiliani’s being the most ridiculous) “Anger Management” manages to rouse some laughter—that is until jokes about pornography and transsexual prostitution make you want to grab the arms of the young teenagers next to you and haul them out of theater.
This film pole vaults over the PG-13 line. Not only does constant profanity (including the f-word) disrupt some of the funniest scenes, so do two groping lesbians. This is particularly disappointing as Sandler’s quirky humor doesn’t require sleaze to make us chuckle. In fact, when his comedies really work, it’s usually because they take us back to a place of childish emotions. Many of us might like to give a wedgie to the kid who tormented us in grade school, but we don’t because, well, we’re adults. However, we can enjoy living vicariously through Sandler as he pitches golf clubs and dominates a game of grade school dodge-ball.
He may think sexual vulgarity is what his audience is clamoring for, but call me naive, the Adam Sandler that makes me, and I believe many others, laugh is the overgrown kid whose setbacks and triumphs celebrate the child in us all. Bring on the snack-packs and dodge ball.
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