Anger Management


Directed by: Peter Segal
Written by:David Dorfman
Starring: Jack Nicholson, Adam Sandler, Marisa Tomei, Luis Guzman, John Turturro
Released: April 17, 2003
Grade: C-

Standing beside his long-time girlfriend Linda (Tomei), Dave Buznik (Sandler) is about to board a plane.  He doesn’t kiss Linda good-bye because a painful childhood incident has left him with a phobia of kissing in public.  Once aboard, the quiet, nervy Dave takes his seat next to an eccentric gentleman who won’t give him any peace.  He asks the stewardess (sorry I mean, flight attendant) for some headphones but she seems preoccupied with gossiping to her fellow employee.  As she walks past his seat empty handed, Dave grabs her arm to ask yet again.  Sooner than you can blink, Dave’s in court on an assault charge and sentenced to 20 hours of anger management therapy under the guidance of Dr. Buddy Rydell (Nicholson).

This was the dumbest, stupidest opening to a film so far in 2003.  I was literally shocked at how bad and implausible this scenario was.  Yet, for some reason, I had faith.  Faith that actors like the re-born Adam Sandler and the reliable Jack Nicholson wouldn’t sign on for such garbage without a reason.  The thought foremost in my mind was that the silly introduction was designed to lure the audience into a false sense of security before revealing the true “humour”.  Oopsy.  I was wrong.

This farce continues in a similar vein.  Dave finds himself up again on another “anger management charge” and to avoid a one year prison sentence, Buddy gets approval of the court to move in with Dave to cure his problem.  With Buddy now following him 24 hours a day, the therapy is only adding to Dave’s anger.  They have to sleep in the same bed.  All the phone lines have been bugged.  Dave has to cook breakfast for both every morning.  He’s missing deadlines at work.  Life has become a living hell.

There’s an attempt at the very end to explain these crazy happenings.  Whilst my tongue burns to reveal all, I’ll limit myself to a brief scathing.  This ending is completely bogus and the more you think about it, the more you’ll realise it doesn’t make a single shred of sense.  It’s as if two completely different scripts were written with the beginning of one was attached to the ending of the other.

It’s hard what to make of it all.  Amongst the childish jokes (highlighted by a scene where Nicholson farts in bed), there’s a slight hint that there may well be a darker undertone to Sandler’s story (ala Punch-Drunk Love).  Don’t even bother getting your hopes up as the lovey-dovey ending immediately put that theory to sleep.  You’ll find it’s easy to compensate for the lack of darkness by simply closing your eyes and cringing.

The film comes to us from the Happy Madison production company whose 2002 releases were Eight Crazy Nights, The Hot Chick, Mr. Deeds and The Master Of Disguise.  With four consecutive dismal efforts, I should have been more apprehensive towards Anger Management.  The film will undoubtedly be a box-office success (due to the huge marketing campaign) but it’s just as bad and unfunny as the aforementioned titles.  The only joke here, is the film itself.