Although it’s essentially a mainstream distillation of star Adam Sandler’s Punch-Drunk Love for the teen-age set, Anger Management is still a laugh-out-loud concept comedy.
Much of why it works is that Sandler and co-star Jack Nicholson to amp up their personas for maximum laughs without hijacking the movie. With free rein to be insane, Jack’s at his snaky, screwy best, and Sandler again wisely plays the straight man to his insane supporting characters.
Said characters, among them a German-accented transvestite and a pair of porno queens, are sure signs of Sandler tinkling with David Dorfman’s script (as well as the inevitable “You can do it!” line, here delivered not by Rob Schneider, but by America’s favorite ex-politician).
But Dorfman clearly has a few witty one-liners and situations of his own, resulting in perhaps not the funniest Sandler comedy there is, but at least one of the top ones.
Surprise, surprise — Sandler’s character Dave Buznik is a meek pushover. He does his boss’ work for him for the promotion you know he won’t get, and is so nervous about public displays of affection that he can’t even kiss girlfriend Linda (Marisa Tomei) in front of other people.
A judge thinks him dangerous, though, after Dave “assaults” a flight attendant in mid-air on a business trip. She sentences him to 20 hours of anger management with therapist Dr. Buddy Rydell (Nicholson).
After another unintentional beating, Dave faces jail time if he can’t finish Buddy’s treatment. But Dave’s not sure if he can put up with Buddy’s hair-trigger temper, in-the-buff sleeping habits and leering eyes for Linda long enough to stay out of the clink.
Anger Management and Punch-Drunk Love‘s obvious connection is Sandler portraying a guy who betters his life by occasionally lashing out. But replacing the dangerous plot elements of that film are amusing antics and phrases that have a lightweight zing.
Buddy spouts empty mantras talking about anger monkeys and rage rhinos. Dave confronts his childhood nemesis, now a Buddhist monk, in a scene that builds through raucous lines and physical comedy. And, in the rare moments the movie flags, it cuts to a fat cat that’s always good for a laugh.
Young/old pairings such as Sandler and Nicholson typically are a mixed bag. Fortunately, they’re more Ben Stiller and Robert De Niro than Chris Rock and Anthony Hopkins.
Clearly having a riot, the actors feed off, rather than on, one another. Even when Sandler goes into his Saturday Night Live-based Opera Man wail in a duet-singing scene, there is no upstaging. They’re a ball on their own, too — namely Nicholson’s speech explaining explosive versus implosive anger and Sandler’s deadpan reaction to the success of a risqué pick-up line.
The resolution of Anger Management warrants no sequel to this particular storyline. But the two stars work so well together that it’s hard to imagine them — or salivating studio executives — not trying again in the future.