Normally, I fall into the former group but, sadly, my normally affectionate allegiance to the guy who introduced the world to Billy Madison wasn’t enough to make me enjoy his latest offering.
Anger Management is a comedy that takes its name a little too much to heart, and it delivers a steady, quietly angry vibe beneath the laughs. The story follows a mild-mannered, and often pushed-over, pet-products designer named Dave Buznik (Sandler), who finds himself in the middle of a bizarre (and wholly unbelievable) air-rage accusation that lands him in court-ordered anger management therapy. His therapist is one Buddy Rydell (Jack Nicholson), a truly odd and altogether creepy self-help author who runs a support group for fury fighters. Buddy decides to make it his personal goal to “help” Dave come to terms with his “implosive” rage – the kind of anger that’s repeatedly repressed until it explodes.
The film then becomes one anger-inducing incident after another, as Buddy purposely screws with Dave’s life – both personal and professional – and Dave slowly unravels emotionally. Suspending one’s disbelief, and scrounging up any empathy or support whatsoever for Buddy, gets harder and harder as his antics get increasingly cruel and Dave becomes a hapless halfwit unable to escape from his grasp.
There are genuinely solid supporting players like Marisa Tomei (as Dave’s girlfriend), John Turturro (as Dave’s explosive “anger ally”), Woody Harrelson (as a transvestite named Galaxia) and Heather Graham (as a woman with some serious issues), but even they’re not enough to balance out Nicholson’s most unlikable character. He becomes a sneering bully whose unsavory presence takes over the film, and throughout the course of the action it’s never really clear why he’s doing what he’s doing or to such a disturbing degree. Similarly, Sandler’s Dave gradually devolves into a caricature doormat with rage-control problems. Unlike Mr. Deeds, Big Daddy or The Wedding Singer, there isn’t any kind of sweetness to take away the sting of hostility the movie gives off.
That said, plenty of teenage boys will probably LOVE this movie. And, in all fairness, I’m fairly certain Sandler and crew made the flick for them and not me.