'Anger Management': THR's 2003 Review

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Jack Nicholson (left) and Adam Sandler in 'Anger Management' (2003)
Nicholson and Sandler team up better than one might expect.

On April 11, 2003, Columbia Pictures unveiled the Adam Sandler and Jack Nicholson comedy Anger Management in theaters nationwide. The Hollywood Reporter's original review is below.

Making a considerable upgrade on his comedy of the reluctant hero by surrounding himself with Oscar winners in Jack Nicholson and Marisa Tomei, Adam Sandler shows signs in Anger Management of a greater interest in style and substance over the sophomoric silliness that has been his forte until now. Which is not to say Anger Management is a comedy classic. It contains terrific sequences, and Nicholson and Sandler team up better than one might expect. But the film plays like two characters in search of a story and runs a good 15 minutes too long.

Sandler fans will be pleased to see their guy step up to the plate in the Nicholson big leagues. For Nicholson, the movie marks a regression to his pre-About Schmidt mode as he plays an outsized version of his screen persona: a demented wise man. Not that there is anything wrong with that, as Jerry Seinfeld might say. So Sony has a solid box-office performer in Anger Management from Revolution Studios, which is rapidly establishing itself as a reliable purveyor of commercial comedy entertainment.

The setup is so ready-made you wonder why no one thought of it before. Sandler plays a New Yorker named Dave, a real milquetoast who, because of a misunderstanding on an airliner — in a scene already seen endlessly in the movie's trailer — winds up assigned by a court to an anger management therapist, the completely unorthodox Dr. Buddy Rydell (that would be Nicholson, of course). Having not raised his voice since grade school, mild-mannered Dave now finds himself saddled with a psycho shrink who makes him very angry.

It is not just that Buddy says cute things like, "Temper is the one thing you can't get rid of by losing it"; Buddy moves in with Dave, insults his boss, makes eyes at his girlfriend, Linda (Tomei), and goads him into confrontation with just about everyone.

The movie's early section is bright with promise. Especially funny is a scene where Buddy insists Dave stop his car during rush hour on the Queensboro Bridge and sing "I Feel Pretty" from West Side Story, complete with Puerto Rican accent.

But David Dorfman's episodic script lurches from sequence to sequence without ever finding a narrative thread. A side trip to Boston, ostensibly for Buddy to check out his mother following a minor operation, and a scene between Dave and a transvestite hooker (Woody Harrelson, God help us all!) may or may not ring funny to Sandler fans, but they feel disconnected and tenuous.

An episode in a Buddhist monastery, where Buddy goads Dave into a fistfight with a monk, not only misfires but is tasteless. With the world going crazy at the moment, does a Hollywood film really need to mock one of the world's major religions? Finally, the movie ends in a sequence in Yankee Stadium that is wildly out of proportion to the movie we have been watching.

Peter Segal directs individual sequences with a steady hand, but slack editing and a meandering and muddled plot make the film seem slow. One wishes Tomei had more to do, but other actors in fairly small roles get opportunities to stand out with sharply defined bits. These would include the late Lynne Thigpen as an exasperated judge, John Turturro as an incurable hothead, Allen Covert as Sandler's relentless rival for Tomei and Luis Guzman as a angry gay man.

All technical credits are polished. — Kirk Honeycutt, originally published on April 11, 2003

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