Anger Management (2003)

Directed by Peter Segal

I liked this movie but I didn’t like it a lot. Anger Management is a great concept but not much more than that so … It has great moments of comedy but doesn’t have a lot holding the various parts together.

The great concept actually has two parts to it. The first is the story set up: a poor milquetoast schmuck is sent to 30 days of anger management with a therapist who behaves as if he himself is angry. The second part of the great concept is having the angry therapist played by Jack Nicholson.

How can you lose? Jack Nicholson as an angry lunatic … It feeds into exactly what people like to see Jack do. Great yucks. Boffo box office.

And it does work. It’s great seeing Nicholson do his patented “maybe I’m a madman and maybe I’m the only one here who is sane” shtick. Nicholson is flawless in the role, wonderfully entertaining, but unlike his performance in About Schmidt, it’s not a great stretch.

Jack Nicholson and Adam Sandler in Anger Management .

His foil is Adam Sandler who plays the usual Adam Sandler character. Again, entertaining but not a great stretch.

The one thing that doesn’t quite work, or at least feels a bit awkward, is the opposing styles of Sandler and Nicholson. Sandler’s humor is very broad; slapstick and often peppered with juvenile crudities (like a fart joke).

Nicholson’s style is much more subtle. Even when it is slapstick and crude, it usually feels more like humor of the intellect, more adult.

The movie itself leans more to Sandler’s humor and so the effect of seeing Nicholson within it is a sense of Jack playing with the kids. The sense is that this isn’t something he would do, but since he’s baby-sitting he’s joining in to keep them entertained. Afterwards, he’ll go away, grab a Scotch, and hang with the grown-ups.

Still, much of the movie works but it’s dependent on Nicholson for this and to a lesser extent actors such as Marisa Tomie.

Jack being Jack in Anger Management .

Roughly about the middle of the film, it starts to sag. The reason?

While the scenes have been entertaining, most of them have been set ups for jokes or comic scenes.

By midway, we’re looking for some meat on the plot but it simply isn’t there.

A standard, cookie-cutter romance storyline is thrown in around this point but it hasn’t really had any set up and, even if it had, it is old and tired.

The film picks up again toward the end but once more it appeals to Nicholson and his lunatic persona. And, once more, it’s entertaining simply because Nicholson alone is a show. He’s that good at what he does.

But overall, despite good moments, the movie is mediocre at best. If you like seeing Jack being “Jack,” it’s fun to see but for anything more substantive you have to look elsewhere. It isn’t present in this movie. (Interestingly, while the film is an Adam Sandler vehicle, Nicholson is all you remember from this movie.)

© 2003 Piddleville Inc.

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