There are probably people out there who question how much power critics have over Hollywood. Well, the answer is most likely none, if you consider the fact that Adam Sandler keeps making comedies, and I'm always there to see them. There was only one other person in the theater when I went to see Billy Madison, but I've been a fan of Sandler's work ever since. And from his first leading role 8 years ago, Sandler's films have grown and evolved )but not necessarily matured) to today, where he stars with Oscar winner Jack Nicholson in Anger Management.
In the film, Sandler stars as Dave Buznik, a mild-mannered guy who has a tendency to let people push him around. Following a misunderstanding on a airplane, in which a flight attendant is injured, Dave is ordered to attend anger management class, under the supervision of Dr. Buddy Rydell. But, Dave feels that he doesn't have an anger problem and is resistant to join the group. When a second altercation lands Dave in court again, the judge allows Buddy to oversee a thirty day intensive anger management program. To faciliatte this, Buddy decides to move in with Dave and track his every move. Dave isn't crazy about this idea, but if it keeps him out of jail, he'll do it. But, as Dave gets to know Buddy, he realizes that the doctor may be far more unstable than his patients. This causes Dave to begin developing a true anger problem.
If you've seen any of Sandler's films, then you know that things can get very, very weird at times. With a respected actor like Nicholson sharing top-billing with Sandler, I'd expected Anger Management to be much more linear and traditional. Boy, was I wrong! While Anger Management isn't as "out there" as Billy Madison or Happy Gilmore, there are still some truly odd moments here. The only real difference between Anger Management and Sandler's previous films is his character. He typically plays a brash, layabout with a penchant for violence, but Dave Buznik is a much more down-to-Earth character, who has a crappy job as an executive assistant and a beautiful girlfriend, Linda (Marisa Tomei). (And, Sandler is forced to wear business suits in this role, as opposed to his standard t-shirt and jeans wardrobe.)
Despite the change in Sandler's role, there are plenty of oddities in this film, most of which come from the members of the anger management group. The screenplay is credited to David Dorfman, but it's quite obviously that Sandler and his group of cronies went over the script, adding their own personal touches. I don't want to give any of these jokes away, but there are fat cats, porn starlets, odd hookers, and an awkward blind date that make up some of the funniest moments in the film.
Like every other group these days, the Casting Society of America gives out awards each year. As odd as this may sound, Anger Management definitely deserves an award. The film is worth seeing for the cameos alone. Clearly Sandler's turn in P.T. Anderson's Punch-Drunk Love introduced him to a new group of actors, and he takes advantage of that here. Many of these actors, whom I won't mention, as I don't want to spoil the surprise, aren't credited, so keep a sharp lookout. Obviously, the biggest casting coup here is Jack Nicholson. And while he is very good in the role of Buddy, bringing a believable charm and charisma to the film as a therapist, he also hurts the movie. Only those who have never seen Jack Nicholson on-screen before will be surprised when Buddy stars acting loopy. We expect that from Jack. The film may have worked better is a more stoic actor had played Buddy. Then, when he does go off, it would have come as more of a shock.
That point aside, Anger Management is a solid comedy that combines a more mature Sandler with the comic insanity that we've come to love him for.
Columbia/Tri-Star Home Entertainment has brought Anger Management to DVD in two separate releases, one full-frame and the other widescreen. For the purpose of this review, the widescreen version was viewed. The DVD features an anamorphic transfer, which has been letterboxed at 2.35:1. The image is very sharp and clear, with the only noticeable defect being the occasional moment of grain on the picture. Problems from artifacting and edge enhancement are kept to a minimum. There are some subtle moments of video noise, but there are no noticeable defects from the source material. The colors look great, and the image is never overly dark.
The primary audio track on the Anger Management DVD is a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix. The track delivers clear and audible dialogue which shows no hissing or distortion. For a dialogue-driven comedy, this track contains a great number of impressive stereo and surround sound effects, plus the occasional subwoofer response. The surround sound action is never overwhelming, and isn't on-par with an action film, but the audio is very good, and show's off the film's sound design very well.
The Anger Management DVD contains a nice mix of extras. We start with an audio commentary from director Peter Segal and star Adam Sandler. This is a mediocre commentary, as Sandler tells Segal that a commentary is "like radio". Thus, Sandler tells the listener what is happening on-screen, as if we can't see it. Beyond that, this pair does relate some good information about the making of the film, and they explain how the phenomenal cast came together. This is followed by two featurettes. "Skull Session" is an 18-minute behind-the-scenes special which offers a great deal of on-set and on-location footage (included the shooting in Yankee Stadium). There are also comments from most of the cast and crew here. In "My Buddy, Jack" (4 minutes), the cast and crew members discuss the experience of working with Jack Nicholson.
The DVD contains 4 deleted scenes, and with 3 of them, it's easy to see why they were cut. But, the last scene contains a fantastic scene with John McEnroe which is simply hilarious. I guarantee that it was cut because the 13-year old kids in the test marketing groups didn't know who McEnroe was. The 5-minute blooper reel contains some great moments, but many of them were featured in the "Skull Session" featurette. "Do You Have Anger Problems?" is a dumb set-top game in which the viewer is asked questions about their response in certain situations. The questions are asked by the film's stars, in segments which were clearly shot during the press junket. Finally, we have the theatrical trailer for Anger Management, which has been letterboxed at 1.85:1. There are also 9 bonus trailers, including a nice one for the upcoming Peter Pan.
Anger Management may represent a "kinder, gentler" Adam Sandler, but that doesn't make this film any less weird. The movie features a great performance by Nicholson and some truly funny moments. The DVD boasts a great transfer and one deleted scene that is a must-see.