Arts: Film: THE BIG PICTURE: Beyond Therapy ; ANGER MANAGEMENT (15) 106 MINS DIRECTOR Peter Segal STARRING Jack Nicholson, Adam Sandler, Marisa Tomei
Quinn, Anthony, The Independent (London, England)
Talk about conflicting impulses. Whenever Jack Nicholson's name appears above a new film, I start calculating the earliest opportunity I can see it. Whenever Adam Sandler's name appears above a film, I start making plans to leave the country. So, when some studio fiend has the idea of putting both their names above the title, it's hard to know whether to laugh or cry - the finest screen actor of his generation paired off with the most irksome goofball comedian of his. In the words of the song, did you ever have the feeling that you wanted to go, and still had the feeling that you wanted to stay away?
The odd thing about Anger Management is that, for the first 20 minutes, it confounds one's expectations by being - go on, admit it - quite good. It also marks the second time this year, after Punch- Drunk Love, that Sandler has been cast against type (that is, the boorish, sentimental type with a silly-ass voice). He plays Dave Buznik, a sweet nebbich who works as an executive at a pet- products company where the boss steals all the credit for his ideas. This is just fine with Dave, who has had a problem with confronting people ever since he suffered a humiliating public exposure of his you- know-what as a kid. A very Sandler moment, this. But it isn't fine at all with his nice girlfriend, Linda (Marisa Tomei), who is fed up with his timidity and his refusal to kiss her in public. If only he could get mad at something for once...
We don't have long to wait. Dave finds himself on a plane next to the passenger from hell - a chuntering, loud-laughing oaf - and through no fault of his own gets involved in a fracas with a flight attendant. David Dorfman's script wittily acknowledges here the way that aeroplanes have become a crucible of the new American sensibility, a sort of tolerance test whose formulaic intro ("This is a very difficult time for our country...") is recited like some neurotic mantra. The scene ends with Dave being arrested and taken off the plane, bundled into court and ordered to undergo "anger management" therapy, or else he serves a jail sentence.
And who should be his counsellor but that chuntering, loud- laughing oaf from the plane, Dr Buddy Rydell (Jack Nicholson), an alleged authority on TAS - Toxic Anger Syndrome. First, he introduces the hapless Dave to his "anger buddy" Chuck (John Turturro), a paranoid ex-marine who used to scream himself to sleep. Then the Doc moves into Dave's apartment - "the lair of the rage rhino", as he calls it - demands to be waited on hand and foot, and even takes over his patient's bed.
And yes, some of this is pretty funny, like the moment Buddy inspects Dave's CD collection and, shaking his head, removes The Best of The Carpenters. "What's wrong with The Carpenters? …