Anger Management (2003)

Alan:
Ebert:
 
Rolling Stone: TV Guide:1/2


I know this review is coming in a bit late, since this movie was released in April, but I just saw it at the second run theatre last Sunday.  We decided to have a Sandler-Fest to celebrate the first viewing of my new Punch-Drunk Love DVD, so we watched Anger Management earlier in the day as we had both missed it in the Spring.  

First off, I don't like Adam Sandler.  I hated him on Saturday Night Live, I don't like his comedy albums, and I haven't liked most of his movies even though I've seen them all.  I liked The Wedding Singer because Drew Barrymore was in it, Steve Buscemi has a hilarious cameo, and it was one of the only roles where he didn't talk in his stupid baby voice.  I like Happy Gilmore, even with the stupid baby voice, because it kind of fit with the character, the movie made fun of golf (like the infinitely superior Caddyshack) and the fight with Bob Barker is hilarious.  And finally, I absolutely loved Punch-Drunk Love.  I think it's one of the coolest love stories ever made and since it was written for Adam Sandler by the super-cool director Paul Thomas Anderson it succeeds brilliantly as opposed to the films he makes with his own creative team which typically fail.  That said...  here's my review.

Anger Management is a movie with some funny moments that is worth watching once.  The concept of the film has limitless comedy potential but after it's put through the Sandler baby-talking fart joke machine it comes out as only mildly amusing.  

The story starts off good with a doormat-type guy (Sandler) leaving to go on a business trip.  Once on the plane his request for a headset quickly spirals out of control to the point where he is shocked unconscious by an air marshal with a Taser.  He is then brought before a judge and sentenced to an anger management course to control his rage even though up to this point he has displayed little to no rage at all.  The film then follows the course of his treatment with anger management expert Dr. Buddy Rydell (Nicholson) and his zany group therapy members.  

The biggest problem I had with this movie is that it could have been so much better.  Especially if it were more of a misunderstanding-type movie where the hero isn't actually angry or filled with rage at all but just thrust into circumstances that force him to be.  Unfortunately we soon find out that Sandler's character (like all of his characters) is actually filled with pent up rage and that's just not as funny.  

The best use of Sandler's rage filled character was in the previously mentioned Punch-Drunk LoveAnderson wrote this movie specifically for Sandler and was miraculously able to contain his lightning in a bottle.  Seriously, if you're at the video store and you're holding a copy of Anger Management in one hand and Punch-Drunk Love in the other, put down Anger Management and prepare to be blown away by the truly unique movie experience that is Punch-Drunk Love.  Unless it's 2-4-1 day at the video store, in which case it is interesting to watch the dichotomy of the good and the bad.  

None of the actors do anything worth mentioning really.  Sandler is Sandler.  It's as if he doesn't even try to play a character anymore.  Nicholson is fine as the wild and crazy Jack we all know but we've seen him before.  Then, for some reason, 1993 Best Supporting Actress winner Marisa Tomei has the part of Sandler's girlfriend.  After her career redeeming work in In the Bedroom I'm surprised she took the part.  She must have needed some cash for a new bottle of Oscar statuette polish.  

This is a movie that desperately needed cameos to fill the void between the funny moments and it delivers those in abundance.  The following people can be seen in small roles or walk-ons throughout the course of the movie:  

Woody Harrelson 
John C. Reilly 
Luis Guzman
Heather Graham
John Turturro
Harry Dean Stanton
Mayor Rudolph Giuliani
Bobby Knight
John McEnroe
Kevin Nealon
Roger Clemens
Derek Jeter
Clint Black

There's probably more but those are the ones I that remember.  With Reilly, Guzman and Graham alone he could have thrown in a Boogie Nights 2 parody just to tack on a couple more gags. 

My favorite thing about this movie (besides the Heather Graham cameo) was the Dukes of Hazard and CHiPs T-shirts that the kids have on in the opening scene.  After that it's all down hill from there.