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'Anger Management'

Sandler and Nicholson deliver the laughs in 'Anger Management'

Friday, April 11, 2003

By Ron Weiskind, Post-Gazette Movie Editor

You can tell the concept for a movie comedy is sound when you laugh out loud upon hearing the title and the name of the two stars. In that regard, it doesn't get much better than Adam Sandler and Jack Nicholson in "Anger Management." Thankfully, the movie lives up to expectations.

Jack Nicholson is Dr. Buddy Rydell and Adam Sandler is Dave Buznik in the comedy "Anger Management," which opens in Pittsburgh today. (Sidney Baldwin, Revolution Studios/Columbia Pictures)

'Anger Management'

dot.gif RATING: PG-13 for crude sexual content and language.

dot.gif STARRING: Adam Sandler, Jack Nicholson, Marisa Tomei.

dot.gif DIRECTOR: Peter Segal.

dot.gif WEB SITE: www.angermanagement

dot.gif CRITIC'S CALL:

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Nicholson's career is punctuated by great angry moments: ordering a chicken-salad sandwich in "Five Easy Pieces," rebelling against Nurse Ratched in "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest," putting an ax through a door while maniacally yelling "Heeere's Johnny!" in "The Shining," going way over the top as the Joker in "Batman," dropping his neighbor's dog down the garbage chute in "As Good As It Gets."

Sandler's fits are hardly so profound or memorable (except for when he picks a fight with Bob Barker and loses in "Happy Gilmore"), but they help define his comic persona as the manchild whose frustrations boil over into brief bouts of violence.

In "Anger Management," the joke begins with the fact that neither man appears to have problems with his temper -- which is not to say they're not carriers.

Sandler plays Dave Buznik, a catalog designer whose manners are so mild that he never pushes for the promotion he wants. He only complains to himself when co-worker Andrew (Allen Covert), a former beau of Dave's girlfriend, Linda (Marisa Tomei), starts trying to put the moves on her.

Most important for purposes of the plot, he acquiesces when the guy sitting in his seat on an airplane refuses to move. Dave takes an empty seat next to a guy who laughs much too loudly at the in-flight movie when all Dave wants to do is sleep. Hoping to shut his neighbor up, Dave asks for headphones.

What happens next is the kind of surreal turnabout that seems like a cosmic joke. Suffice it to say that Dave, who doesn't raise his voice against anyone, much less his hand, finds himself in an anger-management class taught by Dr. Buddy Rydell (Nicholson), whom he is surprised to recognize as someone he's already met.

Buddy all but takes over Dave's life as part of his intensive treatment. If Dave didn't have an anger problem before, he's certainly starting to develop one now. Buddy inserts himself into every facet of Dave's life, the least of which is breakfast. When Dave doesn't make Buddy's eggs just so, the shrink hurls them against the wall. Is he angry? No, he's in perfect control, or so he says.

Marisa Tomei plays Linda, the girlfriend of Adam Sandler's generally mild-mannered Dave, during a scene filmed in New York City. (Darla Khazei, Associated Press)

Maybe it was inevitable with these two stars, but director Peter Segal sublimates the plot to the relationship between the main characters. Nicholson -- his hair askew, his chin unkempt and his eyebrows akimbo -- performs most of the antic comedy. Sandler, with his hair cropped short and his face a puzzle, is the befuddled straight man. Their paths cross, and ultimately so do their personalities as the madness becomes more methodical.

Segal, working from David Dorfman's script, also makes New York City into a subsidiary character and the movie reflects some of its proud antagonism, which fits as well into this story as it did in the "Ghostbuster" comedies.

One of the movie's set pieces finds Buddy forcing Dave to work off his tension by stopping his car on the Queensboro Bridge and singing show tunes as traffic backs up, car horns blare and passing drivers offer digital salutes. New York personalities ranging from Rudy Giuliani to Derek Jeter to John McEnroe have cameos in the movie. Heather Graham and John C. Reilly also show up in unbilled roles.

The supporting cast isn't bad, either. It includes John Turturro and Luis Guzman as two of Buddy's patients, Kevin Nealon as Dave's attorney and Woody Harrelson as -- well, as we've seldom seen him before.

Be forewarned that the movie contains a heavy dose of sexual humor -- the movie originally got an R rating that was appealed down to PG-13. Dave finds that size does matter, and the subject just keeps coming up in the movie. Dave gets nervous about the nature of Buddy's sexual orientation. Two more of Buddy's patients are lesbian porn stars. Heather Graham's character shows Dave her Boston Red Sox underwear. Alas, he's a Yankees fan.

Horny high jinks and inevitable fisticuff scenes notwithstanding, "Anger Management" provides those who may need it with laughter, the best medicine for what ails ya.

Ron Weiskind can be reached at rweiskind@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1581.

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