Film Review: 'Anger Management' had potential

    “”Anger Management”” is certainly a film with five-star potential. Casting a film that has Adam Sandler and Jack Nicholson (both hot off of the awards show circuits) already signed on to play the leads proves a simple task. A film of this stature can command cameos from Roger Clemens and Derek Jeter to Heather Graham and Rudolph Giuliani. Marisa Tomei, Woody Harrelson, John Turturro and Luis Guzman round out the acting cast of a film that finds Sandler dealing with an anger problem that seemingly doesn’t exist.

    Courtesy of Columbia Pictures

    After a few accidental anger incidents, Sandler finds himself at a court hearing with an inept attorney (Kevin Nealon). Unable to convince the court that he is the nice guy that the audience already knows he is, Sandler finds himself in the hands of either a genius or a madman, or maybe a little of both.

    The film’s biggest disappointment may have been that its big name stars, both coming off career performances in “”Punch-Drunk Love”” and “”About Schmidt,”” created expectations that freshman screenwriter David Dorfman’s script couldn’t live up to. While both actors took their roles to the creative limit, they couldn’t avoid taking steps backward from the brilliance of their recent projects.

    Sandler’s character seems to be some hodgepodge of his role in “”Punchdrunk Love”” and, to some degree, the same “”Billy Madison”” character that he plays in almost every other film. He plays a quiet and sane individual who eventually goes the way of a more traditional Sandler character with the help of a little anger therapy. While this mix sounds like it might be successful, it puts Sandler right in the middle of a spectrum where he finds success on both extremes. The middle ground leaves him feeling like the generic romantic comedy male, trading in the hysterical performances he has previously offered for smaller chuckles and an ‘A’ list actress (Tomei) to play opposite him.

    Courtesy of Columbia Pictures

    While the depth of Nicholson’s character was limited in his performance, good old Jack was able to bring a crucial pinch of brilliance to a character who has to switch back and forth between being friend and foe to Sandler throughout the film. Nicholson was well-cast for the role that demanded a love/hate relationship with the audience. His on-screen chemistry with Sandler gets the job done, but fails to deliver the fireworks most would expect out of such a monumental pairing.

    At its heart, “”Anger Management”” could have been more than the average romantic comedy, and maybe even more than the traditional Sandler comedy, but the overt presentation of what was a brilliant subtext during the film’s finale turned masterpiece into, well, just a piece. While the film does a good job of combining geniuses of two separate generations and genres, it provides little more than a few laughs. “”Anger Management”” will be remembered, more than anything, for bringing together two of Hollywood’s best.

    Anger Management

    ***

    Starring Adam Sandler and Jack Nicholson

    In theaters April 4

    Rated PG-13

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