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Anger Management: Not comic anarchy

Arthur J Pais | April 11, 2003 14:10 IST

Anger Management, panned by numerous critics, could have the last laugh at the box-office. Jack Nicholson and Adam Sandler in Anger Management

Released in over 3,600 theatres across North America, this loud, sexist, crude comedy is expected to grab over $35 million this weekend. It is expected to be one of the biggest hits of the year.

'Drab and punch-less,' 'undiscriminating and scattershot' and 'dreadful affair' are what some critics said about the film.

The movie, which received good reviews from the Chicago Tribune and Newsday which gave it three stars out of four, is certainly a crowd pleaser. I would not be surprised if half a dozen Bollywood producers plan unauthorised remakes.

The biggest weakness of David Dorfman's script is that instead of devising comedic situations for its two stars -- Adam Sandler and Jack Nicholson -- it relies more on bathroom humour and sexual wordplay. The movie could have been as interesting as Robert de Niro and Billy Crystal's Analyze This, which received very good reviews and was a big hit. But the kind of chemistry that existed between de Niro and Crystal is absent in this movie.

Director Peter Segal, who had a big success executing a series of toilet jokes in Nutty Professor II: The Klumps, does not seem to have tired of them. 

A misunderstanding on an airplane in the presence of a stun-gun-wielding federal agent takes the mild-mannered Dave Buznik (Sandler) to a hostile judge. He gives Dave a stiff sentence and puts him under therapist Buddy Rydell's ( Nicholson) care for unorthodox anger management.

In no time, pop therapist Buddy begins taking control of Dave's life; he moves in with Dave and proceeds to undermine Dave at every turn. He even begins to dictate Dave's relationship with Linda (Marisa Tomei).

Dave not only has to figure out how long he should endure Buddy but also how to rebel against the therapist. 

With Nicholson in one of his maniacal performances and Sandler offering yet another muted performance, the movie offers some inspired and hilarious scenes for discriminating audiences.

The movie's mass appeal owes considerable debt to some other colourful characters including a hyper-angJack Nicholson [centre] and Adam Sandler [right] in Anger Managementry man (John Turturro) and a rough-looking but effeminate creature (Luis Guzman). Woody Harrelson as a transvestite prostitute is sensational in his Marlene Dietrich impersonation.

In contrast to his inward looking performance in About Schmidt Nicholson is as flamboyant here as he is in films like Batman. With his fiendish laughter, raised eyebrows and exaggerated mannerisms, he consistently enlivens Anger.

Sandler gets top billing but Jack steals the show.

Sandler plays a meek, mumbling and spineless guy with a surprisingly explosive temper on the lines of his performance in the much better received Punch-Drunk Love. That film, directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, was a box office dud. While Anderson dug into Sandler's little seen acting reservoir Segal is happy letting Sandler repeat the performance in his film.

There are a handful of well-directed scenes: the 'air rage' scene that commits Dave to mandatory therapy. Sandler remains serene and collected throughout the confusion while the security guard is yelling, 'Calm down!'

Also watch out for the sequence in which Dave and Buddy launch into a therapeutic rendition of I feel pretty while stalled on the Queensboro Bridge in New York.

This is not a one joke movie, but it is not inspired comic anarchy either.



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