Adam Sandler has been kind of a mainstay on Blu-ray since the format launched two years ago, and with You Don't Mess with the Zohan just a couple of weeks away from diving into theaters, Sony's opted to dust off Anger Management for the latest of Sandler's high-def releases. This time around, he stars as Dave Buznik, a doormat who's let everyone and everything stomp all over him since he was pantsed in front of his fifth grade crush a couple decades back. Dave sits around meekly while his boss scoops up all of his work on the Lane Bryant equivalent of kitty kat clothes and laps up every last bit of the credit, and he's too meek to even kiss his too-cute girlfriend Linda (Marisa Tomei) if anyone else happens to be watching. He lets himself be bullied into sitting next to a boorish prick on one plane ride, and that spirals into Dave repeatedly but politely asking for a headset and tapping a stew on her arm. What does that get him...? Tasered. Plane's forced to turn around. In court for assault and battery, with that faint tap supposedly putting the flight attendant's arm in a sling. Dave's saddled with a hefty fine and 20 hours of anger management.
Oh, and his doctor...? Well, you've seen the trailer, so you already know it's the same nutjob who was sitting next to Dave on the plane: Dr. Buddy Rydell (Jack Nicholson). Dave thinks he can just get Buddy to give him a clean bill of health after suffering through one meeting in group, but the next thing you know, he's accidentally shattered a waitress' nose with a blind retiree's cane, so it's back in front of the judge. Dave is given a choice: he can go to Ryker's for two to five or subject himself to 30 days of Buddy's intensive anger management course. What makes it intensive-in-italics is that Buddy won't let Dave out of his sight. They eat together. They sleep together (in the way-hetero PG-13 sense, natch). Buddy tags along at the office.
Yeah, I don't even have to spell out the rest of the plot for you to fill in the blanks. Buddy may be a psychologist, but he's off his rocker and dragging Dave down with him. Most of the comedy stems...or, well, it's supposed to stem...from how nuts Buddy is. Y'know, tossing a car over the side of a building, forcing Dave to spout off something out of Penthouse Forum to a frigid fox at a bar (played by Heather Graham; the fox, I mean, not the bar), get up close and personal with a faux-German she-male (Woody Harrelson) in the back of an SUV, confront the bully-turned-monk (John C. Reilly) who tormented him in elementary school... Yeah. Oh, and like 70% of comedies these days, Dave runs the risk of losing his girlfriend and has to make some schmaltzy, overly elaborate romantic gesture in the climax to win her back. Kind of.
So, what else is there? A steady stream of dick and fart jokes. Finger-sucking lesbian pornstars. Luis Guzman as a corn-rowed, dumpy, flaming Latino in a cut-off mesh shirt. John Turturro popping up as a combustible prick who knocked up his aunt and screams that Dave must think he's better than him because he still has both of his nuts. Way too many members of the cast breaking into "I Feel Pretty", sometimes admittedly under duress. John McEnroe snoozing with a fluffy, pink bunny. Get it? He's supposed to be this really angry guy, but there he is, sleeping with a stuffed animal! If you spot any typos, it's probably because one of my hands is too busy wiping away these tears of laughter.
I dunno. Anger Management is okay, coasting on its star power and not really setting its sights any higher than it absolutely has to. It's intermittently almost-funny, never landing one good, solid laugh -- at least not from me -- but not really settling into depressingly, groan-worthy territory either. Aside from its fascination with "I Feel Pretty", most of the comedy is kind of shopworn and unimaginative, and that's a drag with Jack Nicholson in the lead and someone who'll turn surreal on a dime the way Sandler can. At least Jack's Jack, devilish grin, demented sense of humor, and all. Sandler plays the straight man this time around, reacting more than anything else. Oh well. Anger Management is pretty mediocre all around, from the movie to every last aspect of this Blu-ray disc. Okay video. Okay audio. Kinda boring extras. So, yeah: if you gotta see it, Rent It.
Video: Anger Management looks pretty decent in high-def, served up here in an AVC encode in its theatrical aspect ratio of 2.39:1. It's nothing breathtaking, nah, but the image is reasonably sharp and detailed. Crispness and clarity can be kind of uneven, though, with certain shots -- the opening flashback, quick establishing shots of Dave's plane mid-air and a romantic stroll by the water, and a bunch of the bits on the field at Yankee Stadium -- looking a good bit softer than the rest. The image has somewhat of a processed look to it, with a number of shots looking as if they'd been artificially sharpened. It's slight but noticeable. Anger Management doesn't really go for bright colors that leap off the screen, but there's a claylike ...no, let's go with Silly Putty...consistency to the fleshtones that doesn't seem quite right. The photography's not all that glossy and sparkling for a high-profile studio flick, and there's a good bit of grain throughout, although the Film Grain Defamation League crowd can breathe easy that it's never all that distracting. A couple of specks pop up early on, but once the movie gets underway, I don't remember seeing much of anything along those lines. I didn't spot any heavy-handed edge enhancement or compression hiccups either. The four word version would go something like: "pretty good, I guess".
Audio: Like pretty much everything coming out of Sony these days, Anger Management's packing a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 soundtrack. Lossless audio is always appreciated, but I doubt it makes all that much of a difference here. The sound design doesn't really veer away from the usual comedy mix: dialogue front and center, light ambiance and score-slash-licensed snippets of music creeping into the surrounds, the subwoofer spends most of the movie under a couple inches of dust...I mean, this isn't the first Blu-ray review you've ever read, so you know how this song goes. Anger Management does throw in some effects like a Lexus tumbling off a high-rise and a throwdown with a monk to liven up the mix, but nothing about it really impresses, and it doesn't have that wow-I've-never-heard-a-DVD-sound-this-good quality I'm shooting for when I give a Blu-ray disc a spin. I also spotted a faint crackle during a couple of shouting matches late in the movie, and that's seems kinda out of place for such a high profile release that's barely five years out of theaters. Anyway, the audio's okay, but it's kind of a swing and a miss for a newly-minted Blu-ray disc.
Anger Management also serves up a French TrueHD 5.1 soundtrack alongside subtitles in English and French. There are two English streams: one traditional and the other subtitled for the deaf and hard of hearing.
Extras: It's a pretty standard set of extras, and aside from high-def plugs for a few of Adam Sandler's other flicks on Blu-ray, all of them have been carried over in standard definition from the original DVD. Nothing here really stands out as essential viewing, though.
Director Peter Segal and Adam Sandler chime in with an audio commentary, although it's kind of a waste of time. They spend an hour and forty-something minutes straight trying to crack each other up, rattling off dialogue from the movie, and basically just describing whatever's happening on-screen instead of...y'know, talking about it. Sure, a couple of okay notes are tossed out along the way: how tough it was to shoot in an airport after 9/11, Sony's effects crew goofing around with Spider-Man wireframes 50,000 times over for the crowd in Yankee Stadium, the surprising number of digital effects in the movie as a whole, and...oh, what white mushrooms smell like, exactly. You also get to hear about Allen Covert packing more than a spring roll in his man-basket and how Peter Segal wants to use an electric hair raiser on his butt!!!!!!!!11!!! So...yeah. This is a caffeinated commentary with plenty of energy behind it, but it's kinda just spinning its wheels.
There are a few deleted scenes, clocking in at ten minutes in total. Most of 'em are pretty bland: Dave getting stomped on after buying a Three Muskateers with a big bite already taken out of it, another shouting match on the freeway and barking at squabbling kids, and Dave meeting Buddy's ethnically am-what-uous mom. The only one that really manages to stand out is a much better cameo by a pissed-off John McEnroe than the blink-and-there-it-went bit that made it into the movie.
Kind of along those same lines, there's also a five and a half minute gag reel. It's the usual stuff -- a bunch of flubbed lines and uncontrollable bursts o' laughter -- but most outtake reels don't have Heather Graham parading around in her skivvies, laughing maniacally while shoving fistfuls of cake in her mouth, so there's that.
Two short featurettes round out the extras. "Skull Session" is a standard issue EPK, with the cast-'n-crew cheerfully gushing about how wonderful everyone and everything is, noting what a hysterical, free-wheeling, improvisational set this was, and what it was like to shoot in Yankee Stadium. Last up is "My Buddy, Jack", a love-in about what a blast it is to work with Mr. Nicholson along with a quick lesson from Adam Sander about the subtle nuances behind a proper Jack impression.
Conclusion: Anger Management isn't as aggressively bad as some of Adam Sandler's other movies, but it squanders what could've been a pretty clever premise and a helluva co-star in Jack Nicholson with its room temperature sense of humor. As a Blu-ray disc, it's kind of an indifferent shrug all around. Rent It.
The usual image disclaimer: the photos scattered around this review are promotional stills and don't necessarily represent the presentation on this Blu-ray disc.