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Anger Management

Anger Management's impressive $135 million domestic gross in 2003 proved beyond a doubt that America still loves Adam Sandler, though one wonders how long the baby-talking comic can keep them hooked if the material continues to be this stale. There was hope that the volatile addition of Jack Nicholson into the puerile mix would enliven the standard Sandler formula, which has reverted to the cuddly (i.e. profitable) tone for the second time since the massive failure of Little Nicky (2000), but the old Oscar-snatching bear is assimilated too easily into the bland proceedings. As unorthodox anger-management counselor Buddy Rydell, Nicholson is clearly playing on the memories of his wild past as he attempts to quell the fury of Dave Buznick (Sandler), the joke being that Buznick, who's been court ordered into this therapy after an air-rage incident, has an aggressively placid personality even in the face of severe indignity. It's not until Rydell subjects Buznick to his intense, one-on-one counseling, which entails moving in with the hapless schlub, that Buznick begins unleashing all of the anger and resentment built up from a lifetime's worth of humiliation. There are some decent gags to be found — most notably the sequence in which Buddy provokes Buznick into beating the crap out of a childhood bully who's turned Buddhist (John C. Reilly) — but, for a Sandler film, it's a disappointingly tame affair. That said, it's never less than watchable, which is partly due to Peter Segal's confident and generally polished direction. This might be the first Sandler film (excepting P.T. Anderson's Punch Drunk Love) that doesn't look like a big-budget student film. And though the punch-lines rarely pop, the story and the characters are engaging enough to maintain interest. As is often the case in Sandler films, the biggest laughs come from bizarre non sequiturs, though there are fewer here than in some of his past triumphs (and, yes, Happy Gilmore(1996) qualifies as a "triumph"). That said, there's a very brief reaction shot involving an obese, sweater-clad cat and a supporting character's notoriously large male member that just might be the most inexplicably hilarious thing to be seen all year. It's also worth noting that Team Sandler still has the impressive ability to lure big-name celebrities into contributing silly, self-parodying cameos. This time out we get Bobby Knight, Rudy Giuliani, and Heather Graham, who gamely strips down to a Boston Red Sox bra-and-panties set and starts smearing handfuls of chocolate cake all over her face. Outside of the cameos, there are also winningly silly supporting turns from the dependable likes of John Turturro, Woody Harrelson, and Luis Guzman. Something this uninspired shouldn't be so casually entertaining, but Sandler's such a likable clown, it's hard to resist even when the jokes miss more often than they hit. But this goodwill is going to expire quickly if the overall quality of the films doesn't improve. Columbia TriStar presents Anger Managementin a fine anamorphic transfer (2.40:1) with solid Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. Extras include a rambling feature-length commentary with Segal and Sandler that consists of the star complimenting everyone who worked on the film, while the director admits that a high percentage of Nicholson's staging suggestions were incorporated into the finished product. There are also two featurettes ("Skull Session" and "My Buddy Jack"), a terribly lame "Do You Have Anger Problems?" game, a laugh-free gag reel, and a whole host of trailers for other Sony product. Keep-case.
—Clarence Beaks

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