Anger Management

on April 11, 2003 by Christine James
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If Adam Sandler had a dollar for every time he played an average Joe whose milquetoast demeanor belies a roiling, seething rage, he'd have about one-one hundred-millionth of the international gross such vehicles have generated at the box office. Despite Sandler's obsession with barely-contained psychosis, “Anger Management” doesn't feel as thematically redundant as it is, thanks to the cachet-raising presence of his co-star.

Opposite Sandler's mild-mannered Dave Buznik, whose conflict avoidance wins him no respect from his boss or his girlfriend, is Jack Nicholson, gleefully maniacal in an entertainingly ironic role as anger management instructor Buddy Rydell. When Dave is wrongly accused of air rage by an obnoxious flight attendant, a court remands him into Buddy's care. His anger management classmates are a motley crew of ultraviolent maniacs, but it soon becomes clear that the teacher may be the worst offender. The aggressive, abrasive Buddy moves in with Dave on the pretense of maximizing the effectiveness of his course, and in short order turns his life upside-down. But every time Dave reaches the end of his fuse, darned if Buddy's unorthodox methods don't wind up working.

There are lots of the half-assed, over-the-top gags that are the weakness of all of Sandler's comedies, but the script has some moments of surreal cleverness, especially those involving John Turturro and Luis Guzman as Dave's lunatic “rage buddies,” some fun celebrity cameos and winks at Nicholson's real-life antics involving golf clubs and car windshields. And the revenge scenes are pretty irresistible, even if the moral of the story seems to be extreme to the point of breaching societal etiquette, personal ethics and judicial law. Starring Adam Sandler, Jack Nicholson, Marisa Tomei and John Turturro. Directed by Peter Segal. Written by David Dorfman. Produced by Jack Giarraputo and Barry Bernardi. A Columbia release. Comedy. Rated PG-13 for crude sexual content and language. Running time: 97 min

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