Anger Management

2003, Movie, PG-13, 100 mins


This Adam Sandler/Jack Nicholson vehicle spends a long 105 minutes spinning a witless sitcom variation on THE GAME (1997). Meek, desperately non-confrontational, 30-ish Dave Buznik (Sandler) toils for an abusive boss at a company that manufactures fashion accessories for overweight cats and dogs. On a plane to New York, Buznik makes the mistake of asking an attitudinal flight attendant (Nancy Walls) for a pair of headphones; the next thing he knows, he's been mistaken for a potential terrorist and tasered by a sky marshal. He subsequently winds up in the court of imperious Judge Daniels (Lynne Thigpen), accused of air rage; she orders him to attend an anger management class run by trendy celebrity shrink Buddy Rydell (Nicholson), who sat next to Buznik on the plane and happens to be the judge's old pal. Ah, the wonders of plot contrivance! Dr. Rydell's therapy group features the usual assortment of mildly offensive stereotypes, including requisite screamingly gay Latino Lou (Luiz Guzman), and things go from bad to worse when Buznik, trying to extricate another member of the group from a bar fight, winds up clocking a blind man (an unbilled Harry Dean Stanton). Buznik finds himself back before Judge Daniels, who orders him to step up his therapy or do a year in jail. Buznik accepts out of sheer desperation, not realizing that Rydell is going to move into his apartment and insert himself into every area of Buznik's private life, including his relationship with girlfriend Linda (Marisa Tomei). And so the game begins: Rydell engineers a slowly escalating succession of disastrous encounters — most either less funny than they're meant to be (a repellently misogynist scene featuring Heather Graham as a bar pickup with low self-esteem) or downright creepy (Woody Harrelson's turn as a German transvestite hooker is sure to generate puzzled speculation for years to come) — designed to kindle Sandler's trademark slow burn. David Dorfman's contrived screenplay manages a couple of good throwaway jokes, including the non sequitur "I think Eskimos are smug," and a reference to a Carpenters CD as "songs of madness and obsession." There are some moderately amusing celebrity cameos (ex-NYC mayor Rudy Giuliani, NY Yankee Roger Clemens) and Sandler and Nicholson do what they can with the thin material — in fact, both underplay rather deftly. But by the time the big not-so-surprise ending rolls around — no, nothing that happened was exactly as it seemed — most viewers will have long since stopped caring. leave a comment --Steve Simels

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