While the writing and direction in “Anger Management” are light years below PT Anderson’s work in Punch-Drunk Love, both films do share Adam Sandler doing a variation of the same performance. Dave Buznik didn’t grow up taunted by seven sisters but he did get bullied around a lot, and like Barry Egand he’s become an apparently nice and easygoing man but with a deep well of rage repressed behind the submissive exterior. Instead of novelty plungers, Dave designs sweaters for overweight cats and if he’s already found love with a poetry teacher (Marisa Tomei), like Barry he’s having a hard time expressing how he feels.
Enters Dr. Buddy Rydell (Jack Nicholson), an unorthodox shrink whom Buznik is sent to for anger management therapy after he’s convicted of assault on a flight attendant. Will the doctor turn out to be wacked out himself or will his quirky methods eventually allow Dave to get respect at work and assert himself with his girlfriend? Both actually which, not to spoil anything, I feel is a cop out. I won’t go into details, but this is a classic case of a film that wants to have its cake and eat it at the same time. The ending is just lame, basically negating the craziness that went before… Still, said craziness is pretty damn funny while it lasts!
A lot of people are going on about how Nicholson is the real star here, but as over the top and freaky as he is in this movie, most of the laughs don’t come from him. More often than not it’s Sandler’s “straight man” reactions to Dr. Buddy’s antics that cracked me up. And, like in most Happy Madison productions, the delirious supporting cast steals a lot of scenes. As the Almighty JARED points out, the movie is “packed to the brim with PTA’s travelling company”, namely John C. Reilly, Heather Graham and Luis Guzman. Also making hilarious appearances are John Turturro, Kevin Nealon, Allen Covert and Woody Harrelson, disturbingly made up into something that calls itself Galaxia.
The film was directed by Peter Segal, who’s not a great craftsman but who has the good sense of not getting in the way of the performers, as he’d previously done in “Tommy Boy”, the funniest movie of Chris Farley’s career. Adam Sandler has been in better comedies than “Anger Management”, but he’s also been in much worse. This might be mindless fun, but it’s nothing to get angry about.