Friday, September 9, 2011

Review: "Anger Management" Overdoes It (Happy B'day, Adam Sandler)

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 50 (of 2003) by Leroy Douresseaux

Anger Management (2003)
Running time: 106 minutes (1 hour, 46 minutes)
MPAA – PG-13 for crude sexual content and language
DIRECTOR: Peter Segal
WRITER: David Dorfman
PRODUCERS: Barry Bernardi and Jack Giarraputo
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Donald M. McAlpine (D.o.P.)
EDITOR: Jeff Gourson

COMEDY with elements of drama

Starring: Jack Nicholson, Adam Sandler, Marisa Tomei, Luis Guzman, John Turturro with Woody Harrelson, Lynne Thigpen, John C. Reilly, and Heather Graham

First of, let me say that Anger Management is extremely funny and all the characters are very well played, from the stars to the smaller roles. I’m still surprised that this movie was able to keep its hilarious energy so long. Actually, it doesn’t naturally run out of steam. All at once, the filmmakers decide to screw up the ending.

Dave Buznick (Adam Sandler) is a under appreciated, low level secretary who is wrongly sentenced to an anger management program, after a ridiculous incident on an airplane. He has the luck of one-eyed, one-legged dog, so he only gets into more trouble after he enters the program. His counselor, Dr. Buddy Rydell (Jack Nicholson), decides to move into Dave’s apartment so that he gave give his patient 24-hour intensive therapy. The problem is Rydell, in Dave’s eyes, is more crazy and angrier than he could ever be. However, he’s forced to live with Rydell’s unorthodox and bizarre behavior, causing Dave to slowly go insane, which is the very last thing he needs because another alleged outburst of extreme rage and the judge (Lynne Thigpen) would sentence Dave to a year in state prison.

Sandler and Nicholson make an excellent comedy team, and they have such amazing, yet surprising chemistry. Jack does what he does best; he’s the wicked, little devil and conniving imp at the seat of the controls – the conductor, the master manipulator, Rasputin.

Sandler tempers the sullen and explosive character traits that he gives most of his others characters to play Dave Buznick, who is a put upon guy simmering quietly beneath his clothes and ready to have one good explosion. He makes Dave very sympathetic. The audience can feel the stings of the wrongs done to Dave and can root for him to win. I know that I certainly wanted him to just really get angry and let his tormentors have it. This is an understated performance that’s just obvious enough to work. However, Sandler does experience the occasional lapse; he plays such a second banana to Nicholson’s antics that he falls into moments when he isn’t even acting. It’s like he’s just serving up volleys for Nicholson to jump on, and he’s just an emcee. Still, Sandler and Nicholson worked together like a veteran comedy team.

There’s not much to the story, and a plot is nonexistent. Really, the writing and directing only exist to serve as staging for the two main players to exercise their shtick. It’s much the same with the supporting cast, but they make the most of their onscreen time, especially Luiz Guzman and John Turturro. Sadly, Marisa Tomei is less than a cipher, and her talent is wasted; pretty much any actress of modest attractiveness could have played her part.

Now to the end – it’s mostly a New York Yankees, New York City, NYC folk heroes love fest, and it kills this movie. In fact, the resolution of the story and the ridiculous explanation for Dr. Rydell’s behavior almost kills the story and certainly retards Nicholson’s very entertaining character and performance. There are certainly several other endings that would have made perfect sense in the context of Rydell’s antics and Buznick’s predicament. Instead, the filmmakers tie everything up in a most awful and sappy finale that truly deserves to be called a “Hollywood Ending.” Worst of all is a cameo by Rudolph “Rudy” W. Giuliani, former mayor of NYC. He is someone I wish would have been in the Twin Towers the day they fell and not made it out alive.

Girl, did I say that? Anyway, Anger Management is still very funny, at least up to the end, and worth seeing.

6 of 10


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