Anger Management review by Tom Blain

Neurotic Laughs

David Buznik (Adam Sandler) is your average guy who takes it in the face like a champ. By "it" I mean excessive abuse. It started off as the occasional wedgie or a drawer-dropper when he was a wee lad. As he got older it progressed to verbal abuse and getting walked over by co-workers, aquintances, and sometimes total strangers. Even his boss walks takes total advantage of him (stealing his work, not giving him a promotion, not giving him respect.

While on a plane for a business trip, his actions are unfortunately percieved in a negative way and suddenly he finds himself on the wrong end of a tazer, in court, and all of a sudden in anger management courses. It would appear to him (and the audience) that poor David is in the wrong place, but the more he pleas and the more he resists the longer he stays. So he just has to suck it up for a while and hope it all cools down.

His anger management instructor Buddy Rydell (Jack Nicholson) at times seems crazier than David. When Buddy smiles at you, it gives you the feeling that he may have just placed the highest bid for your soul. The doctor/patient relationship is based on trust, but who can trust this wacko? Well David has little choice, trusts him, and usually ends up getting tricked into some embarassing or painful position {enter audience laughter}. Buddy's methods are extreme (24 hour surveilence, phones tapped, visits to she-male prostitutes, and sleeping in the same bed), but for David its better than being in prison so he takes every lesson with clenched teeth.

Most of the laughs (and there is an abundance) come from our buddy Jack Nicholson. Who would have guessed? His facial expressions (ala smile from the devil himself) are only enhanced by the fleshy folds now covering his 60-something year old face. He uses every tiny wrinkle to his advantage; much like the puppet of a ventriloquist. As far as his personality and attitude... well Jack is Jack. He plays a character who is in complete control of each situation as he torments the poor sappy Sandler.

There is a particularly funny scene in which Sandler is experiencing what most of us would call "8am road rage" and Jack pulls the hand brake on the Brooklyn Bridge to calm him down. Jack won't let him go until he sings (with feeling and emotion) I'm a Pretty Girl from West Side Story {as tears of laughter stroll their way down my red cheeks}.

Sandler is ok as the punching bag main character. Its a role he is accustomed to, and I am sure he will make many more paychecks playing the same character. The rest of the cast reads like a Soderburgh/P.T. Andersen epic. John Turturro, plays a foul mouth Brooklyn nutt (think Jesus in Big Lebowski if he was Italian not Cuban). His fuse is short, and not only would he pick a fight with a blind man, but he does pick a fight with a blind man. John C. Reilly is a former bully turned Buddhist monk but as Sandler finds out the flame still burns. Luis Guzman is another member of the support circle. I am not sure what made him so angry but he was Puerto Rican and flamboyantly gay, with only about 3/4 of a goatee. He probably had more "issues" than just anger, but anger is a good place to start for ole "Louie". And don't let me forget Heather Graham will make anyone who watches this movie an instant Red Sox fan. Trust me. Also there are cameo roles by Rudolph Guiliani, Derek Jeter, Roger Clemens, Bobby Knight, and John McEnroe. About the only person who was left out of this film was Steve Buscemi who is in just about ever other Sandler film that comes to mind.

It is no suprise that this is a Sandler movie. The Happy Madison Productions banner at the opening credits was a big give-away. So you know you are getting yourself into "a certain type of film." Luckily there are enough good, comic actors in this film that Sandler doesn't have to rely strictly on his own brand of slappy humor (which at times is funny, but more often tends to run dry). He is the centerpiece, but make no mistake, the characters around him are pumping out most of the laughs. The movie ends harmlessly as one would expect, and maybe even goes too far. By that I mean it goes back to explain certain situations giving the audience a "ah yes in restrospect" feeling that they would probably have gotten on their own. This is something that bugs me to no end. But the laughs are enough to make me look past its shallow ending and want to see this movie again. Jack is in rare funny form, not competing for an Oscar, but killing 'em as usual.




6 out of 10 Jackasses
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