A review of “Anger Management” by Jeanne Aufmuth

 

Stars: ** 1/2

Rating: PG-13 for language, adult themes

Run Time: 1 hour, 41 minutes

 

 

Jack Nicholson and Adam Sandler are the unlikeliest of bedfellows. With Jack channeling his comic dark side and Sandler trotting out his sensitive soul, the pair manages to uncover a comfortable middle ground.

Sandler can do no wrong when he sees fit to shed his goofy Happy Gilmore persona (remember “Punch-Drunk Love”?). As mild-mannered Dave Buznik, he’s a regular Joe executive assistant with rational phobias and a lovely girlfriend (Marisa Tomei) to whom he can’t quite commit. 

A routine business flight to St. Louis alters Dave’s life, and not for the better.  Reluctantly drawn into a minor fracas with an indignant flight attendant, Dave is ordered by the courts to undergo twenty hours of self-help guru Buddy Rydell’s (Nicholson) legendary anger management therapy.

Rydell’s analysis group has anger to burn.  A pair of lesbian porn-stars who only have eyes for each other (and a world of hurt for anyone who tries to muscle in) and a macho hothead with murder on the brain (John Turturro) are just a few of Rydell’s temperamentally-challenged misfits.

One regrettable random act of violence leads to another.  Dave finds himself labeled a passive-aggressive, and sentenced to Rydell’s 30-day intensive hands-on program. Result:  Rydell moves in for a month, and Dave’s life goes straight to hell.

When it’s not straying over-the-top (with tasteless gay humor and clunky celebrity cameos) “Management” is a lot of laughs.  Sandler’s big business brainstorm (a chic line of plus-size kitty clothing) affords priceless visuals -- fat cats clad in the latest fashionable outerwear, etc. The fuzzy-wuzzy-isms of getting in touch with your inner dander are riotous (“Temper is the one thing you can’t get rid of by losing it”, “Sarcasm is anger’s ugliest cousin”), courtesy of Jack’s maliciously delicious delivery. 

An impromptu Nicholson/Sandler duet (West Side Story’s “I Feel Pretty”) brings the house down, thanks to the pair’s unusually effortless chemistry.  Tomei has little to do until the final act, a wildly uneven thirty minutes that somehow manages to tie the loose ends together with some genuine warmth.