In anticipation, Jack Nicholson and Adam Sandler’s comedy Anger Management hits like that film geek game in which players come up with drool-worthy casts for fantasy movies we’re never likely to see: Groucho Marx and Jim Carrey in The Road to Cairo, Bugs Bunny and Homer Simpson in Bringing Out the D’Oh!
In anticipation, Anger is just the vehicle to set loose the goofy Sandler’s and the grumpy Nicholson’s best comedic personas. Timid wage slave Sandler, bubbling with the repressed rage set to such freaky laughs in Punch-Drunk Love, is sentenced to Dr. Nicholson’s anger management regimen after an understandable incident of sky-rage.
In execution, the film flares early with potential, throwing Sandler to Nicholson’s mercy just as Jack’s about to bring out his best guns. Then he doesn’t. Instead, Nicholson becomes a foil in a nearly standard Sandler movie. This isn’t the heir to Punch-Drunk Love, but rather to Big Daddy. Soon, Anger is lost in non-sequiturs, with broadly “weird” characters crossing Sandler’s path to forgettable effect (Woody Harrelson as a Germanic transvestite, Heather Graham as a raging barfly). Worse than all this, though, the movie is just not that funny.
Nicholson sporadically threatens to right the wobbly script, but director Peter Segal (Tommy Boy) never gives him room. Instead, we get Sandler giving a wedgie to a Buddhist monk. Actress Marisa Tomei once won an Oscar in a comedy, but you’d never know it with what she’s given here.
In an era seemingly dominated by domestic rage, Anger could have been one for the ages. Instead, it’s barely one for this week.