ANGER MANAGEMENT

An Illusion review by Joan Ellis


            “Anger Management” is a lousy movie.  It oozes with the smugness of filmmakers who think they have hit a casting home run that will allow them to coast.  After signing Jack Nicholson and Adam Sandler, they sat on their duffs and cranked out a movie that is a sloppy insult to the audience.  “Anger Management” is a limp bore. 

                We are introduced to Dr. Buddy Rydell (Jack Nicholson) and Dave (Adam Sandler) who are stuck, mid-flight, in a personality clash.  A series of labored mishaps unfolds in the aisle, landing the hapless Dave in the courtroom of a judge played with her usual direct good humor by Lynne Thigpen in her final role.  She sentences him to participation in the therapy group of the highly regarded Dr. Rydell, the obnoxious seatmate Dave already knows he hates.  The sentence expands to a 24-hour total immersion premise that is supposed to be wildly funny.

                The problem is that everything in these scenes is written and played over the top.  That’s a dangerous place to be without good writers.  Gags, verbal and visual demand great lines, and this movie has neither.  The neither persists throughout the movie:  overripe sight gags accompanied by lines that have to be shouted to draw attention. 

                Jack Nicholson shouldn’t have to shout for attention when the very sight of his smile and eyebrows can hold a whole audience under most circumstances.  Just remember “As Good as it Gets” for comedy or any of the dramatic roles where his expression telegraphs the impact of his next words.  Here we must watch him giving himself an electrifying scalp massage while mouthing inanities with a tooth brush in his mouth.  Exaggeration does not become him.  Nor does it add any wallop to the lines.  “This is a very difficult time for our country,” delivered by an anxious flight attendant to a difficult passenger could be funny, but it loses all the irony when it’s a shout. 

                And so we watch a series of scenes that are lame take-offs on contemporary subjects whose time has passed.  The plane turns back with a misunderstood innocent; the therapist babbles the clichés of therapy;  Adam Sandler gets in a fight with a blind man; he tangles with a barstool hooker; he fights with a monk.  And all the way through the comedy rides on a sadistic edge.

                The sight of Nicholson, Sandler and a game cast mugging their way through this stuff is just plain disappointing.  Watching it gives us the feeling of trying to wade quickly through waist deep water.  It doesn’t help a bit when things turn out not to have been quite what they seem because we have been subjected to things as they seem for an eternity.  If you go just to see to see this movie just because you believe the hype about Jack Nicholson’s raucous comedy, just try counting the number of times you laugh.


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