Friday, 29 December 2017

Movie Review: Anger Management (2003)


A lukewarm comedy, Anger Management has half of a good idea and not enough creative talent to expand the concept into a film.

Emotionally scarred by the bullying he received as a child, Dave (Adam Sandler) is a meek man, taken advantage of by his boss and unwilling to display public affection towards his long-term girlfriend Linda (Marisa Tomei). Despite Dave's calm demeanour, an incident onboard a plane spirals out of control, Dave grabs a flight attendant by the arm and finds himself in court, sentenced to anger management classes.

His appointed therapist Dr. Buddy Rydell (Jack Nicholson), who happens to have been sitting next to Dave on that flight, has unconventional methods, and when Dave has another physical altercation with a blind man and a restaurant server resulting in a more severe sentence, Buddy takes full control of Dave's life. The therapist moves in with Dave and repeatedly pushes his buttons to try and snap him out of his docile passive-aggressive emotions.

Directed by Peter Segal, Anger Management is an attempted buddy comedy. That the career trajectories of Jack Nicholson and Adam Sandler would ever meet is astounding, but unfortunately the results veer much closer to Sandler's typical output: unrefined, silly, immature and underdeveloped.

Sandler himself is actually fine, playing a man keeping his emotions in check and too sequestered in his head for his own good. The problems with Anger Management reside in an exceptionally weak script by David S. Dorfman. The story never recovers from setting the therapist Rydell totally loose on Dave's life with ridiculously unprofessional conduct, including Rydell moving into Dave's apartment and straight into his bed. The narrative crosses the line from witty to lazy early and often, and never recovers.

Which is a pity, because the film does contain the germ of a decent comedy. In better hands and with intelligent development, the challenge of overcoming excessive passiveness to get on with life carries promise. Only flashes of what could have been interesting make it into Anger Management, mainly in scenes where Dave's emotional detachment land him in as much trouble as any actual release of anger.

But otherwise Sandler fans would be much the happier, particularly as Segal has no control over Nicholson. He surrenders to his worst tendencies of overacting and scenery chewing, effectively Nicholson playing Nicholson at the lowest common denominator. Tomei is wasted in a token role, and the rest of the cast includes John Turturro, January Jones and Krista Allen as Rydell's patients, and an uncredited Heather Graham in a single scene as Dave's seductive test.

Anger Management settles down expectantly on the therapist's couch, but receives incompetent treatment.






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