Anger Management (2003)

(Netflix Streaming, April 2015)  At the time of Anger Management’s release, there was something a bit clever in casting Adam Sandler in the role of a meek man who is led by circumstances into assuming his innate aggression: Early-career Sandler exemplified a violent man-child comic persona, so much of Anger Management is spent waiting for the inevitable explosions.  (After 2002’s Mr. Deeds, his persona would be softened to a gentler good-guy one.)  To see him paired off with Jack Nicholson (who has spent much of his late career perfecting abrasive characters) is a further wonder.  And, at times, Anger Management works: there are funny set-pieces, many showcase moments for Nicholson’s ability to be both unpleasant and compelling and Sandler navigates a fine edge between his early aggressive persona and his latter-day amiable everyday-man.  Marisa Tomei is likable in a somewhat generic role, with fun performance in smaller roles from Luis Guzman, John Turturro, Woody Harrelson and John C. Reilly.  (There are also more than a few celebrity cameos, as is often the case in Happy Madison-produced movies.)  Where Anger Management gets in a bit of a mess, however, is in its messy collage of absurd contrivances, late-revealed conspiracy, attempts to link back to a childhood prologue and ultimate claim to be about something else than simple anger management.  The last few minutes are a series of “Really?  Really??” that don’t add much to the film, especially when its reason for existing is simply seeing Sandler face off with Nicholson –if the film’s poster could get that right, then why didn’t the script?  Of course, Adam Sandler films aren’t exactly known for tight scripts and focused scenes – sometimes, it’s best to just enjoy the comic set-pieces and ignore the attempts at making it all mean something at the end.

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