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Anger Management Print E-mail
Friday, 29 August 2008
ImageDave Buznik (Adam Sandler) is a much put-upon executive assistant to belittling catalog publisher, Frank Head (Kurt Fuller).  Dave has an attractive girlfriend, Linda (Marisa Tomei) he’s been in a relationship with for years, but has issues showing affection to her in public.  On a business trip, an unresponsive flight attendant and air marshal overreact to Dave’s request for headphones, accuse him of acting violently, so they taser him.  A judge (Lynne Thigpen), believing the claims that he violently provoked the incident, sentences Dave to sessions of anger management counseling with Dr. Buddy Rydell (Jack Nicholson).  

Buddy is a bit of a wild, unorthodox character, and he pairs Dave with the aggressive, violent Chuck (John Turturro) as his “anger buddy.”  When Chuck provokes a fight in a neighborhood bar, Dave tries to act as peacemaker but ends up accidentally hitting a waitress.  Back in court again, the judge is ready to sentence Dave to a one-year stint in prison for assault, but Buddy, who has some influence with the court, is able to convince her to lower the sentence to probation if he passes a 30-day intensive therapy program with Buddy.

Dave finds Buddy’s treatment extremely invasive and disquieting to say the least.  Buddy insists on moving in with Dave to stay near him at all times during the next thirty days, and will even be shadowing him at work.  With Buddy as final arbiter of justice in his case, Dave is forced to go along with his suggestions, such as confronting a childhood bully, who has now become a Buddhist monk (John C. Reilly), a situation which devolves into a brawl.  Buddy suggests that Dave give Linda some space during a trial separation, under the notion that the time in the dank dating pool will show her what a catch she has in Dave.  Dave goes ahead with it but realizes far too late that this last idea of Buddy’s may be a move to bump Dave out of the picture and allow him to woo Linda for himself. “Anger Management” has a solid premise for a comedy, given an extra charge by casting Nicholson.  Of course, it’s the kind of mildly crazy role that he can play in his sleep, but he seems particularly engaged here, and restrains himself from going too broad most of the time, and resists large cartoonish gestures.  Adam Sandler is competent, though comes off as a bit one-note next to Jack Nicholson, which is to be expected.  The script by David Dorfman gets the job done, but it is strongest in the first half.  The setup is fairly brisk and amusing, but there’s perhaps a bit too much emphasis on the other members of the anger group when it’s clear that the strongest material is the interplay between the two leads.  The odd couple dynamic between the two is predictable, obvious stuff, but their performances give it a little extra life.  

While “Anger Management” is breezy and funny at times, it’s a bit too soft and doesn’t go as far with the material as it could have.  The film is content to be light and entertaining when it could be pushing the material even farther into wild, unpredictable territory.  A routine where Buddy counsels a stressed-out Dave into singing “I Feel Pretty,” from “West Side Story” while stuck in his morning commute is clearly funnier to the filmmakers than it actually is to the audience and its recurring use is a bit of a groaner.  “Young and the Restless” star Don Diamont has a fun cameo very early on, but the film wastes its time on many flat and unfunny cameos of non-acting public figures like Bobby Knight, John McEnroe, Rudy Giuliani and others. (Spoiler ahead.)  The reveal that the entire situation has been an (implausible) elaborate setup, all contrived by Linda and Buddy to get Dave to be more assertive, almost unzips the movie and the cloying ending makes it a big, mushy shaggy dog enterprise.  

The Blu-ray release is passable but seems a tad over-scrubbed at times.  Wide shots are detailed but a notch below the crispness that should be visible on the format.  Facial details are an improvement over standard definition, and colors are vivid and accurate, but in tight closeups there’s a sense that some fine detail has been lost in compression or has been digitally scrubbed out.  The clarity of the BD image makes some of the computer generated gags (a falling car, a man falling from a tree) look extremely fake.

The audio is presented in an uncompressed TrueHD 5.1 track, which is a fine rendition of an undemanding mix.  There are virtually no surround effects and it’s a predominantly quiet film, with very little stereo separation.  Dialogue is crisp and clean, and the volume level is ideally set in the mix.  The LFE channel jumps in, effectively, for a few instances of loud mayhem, such as the above-mentioned plummeting car.  

The disc includes two featurettes featuring behind-the-scenes footage of Nicholson on the set, but he’s not included in any of the interviews.  Certainly one of the perks of achieving his level of mega-stardom is being able to avoid participation in the usual EPK fluff pieces.  Director Peter Segal and Sandler share a few warm observations on Nicholson and note how well he knew the script and how involved he was in the production.  The deleted scenes are sourced from editing tapes, are 4x3 letterboxed and are extremely jerky.  There’s nothing special contained in them, but a few of these trimmed bits do feature Nicholson, which may be of interest to his fans.  The commentary is amiable and there’s much genial ribbing between Sandler and Segal.

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