Dir: Peter Segal. US. 2003.
There are some films in which the teaming of two stars is so enticing that critical appraisal of the film which goes on around them is almost moot. Anger Management - which brings Adam Sandler together with Jack Nicholson - is one such film. Critical disdain is inevitable, but US audiences at least will not care a bit; international audiences who are less partial to the Sandler side of the equation might be more discerning.
Sandler has not yet caught on in international territories. His biggest overseas hit to date was Big Daddy in 1999 which totalled $70m compared to a domestic take of $163.5m. Since then, Little Nicky was a bomb and Mr Deeds a severe disappointment last year, with $35m compared to a domestic gross of $126.3m.
Teamed with Nicholson in a broad cameo-filled comedy, the $20m-a-film star has his biggest shot at an international hit yet. Columbia TriStar Film Distributors International which distributes on behalf of Revolution Studios will be pulling out all the stops to get mileage out of the film following its domestic opening this weekend.
Revolution, Joe Roth's extraordinarily prolific production machine, is fast building a library of star-heavy pictures but its qualitative track record has been decidedly erratic. Like XXX, Tears Of The Sun, Maid In Manhattan and America's Sweethearts, Anger Management feels under-developed and scrappily put together - a wearily formulaic concept galvanised by the personalities of the stars involved. Clearly talent relations are Revolution's forte over script development.
Sandler and Nicholson look like they are having fun at least, flexing their large comedic muscles under the pedestrian direction of Peter Segal (Nutty Professor II, Naked Gun 3). It's difficult to describe the film as having a narrative. It's a 'concept' played for laughs, with no respect for traditional story values or credibility.
Sandler is Dave Buznik, a mild-mannered New Yorker who gets caught up in an ugly incident on a plane and through a series of misunderstandings is ordered by Judge Daniels (the late Lynne Thigpen) to attend anger management therapy at sessions run by Doctor Buddy Rydell (Nicholson). Rydell's approach is confrontational and aggressive, leading to yet another mishap in a bar and another court order to step up his therapy. Rydell moves in with Dave to battle his inner demons but only antagonises him by escorting him to work, goading him into a fight with his childhood nemesis (Reilly) and trying to seduce his girlfriend (Marisa Tomei).
Is it funny' In large part, yes, so long as audiences are willing to neglect the stupidity of the plot and enjoy each set-up. Nicholson's recital of I Feel Pretty, Sandler's fight with Reilly at a Buddhist retreat and a seduction scene with Heather Graham are certainly priceless moments. Other characters like Woody Harrelson's transvestite and Guzman's angry gay man are plain fatuous - but then nothing in the film could be called sophisticated.
Cameos by John McEnroe and former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani (in the film's climactic scene at Yankee Stadium) will have resonance for international audiences. In contrast, the appearance of tantrum-throwing US college basketball coach Bobby Knight will fall flat on foreign screens and is indicative of Sandler's core audience: the teenage boys of North America.
Prod cos: Happy Madison, Revolution Studios
US dist: Columbia Pictures
Worldwide dist: Columbia TriStar/Revolution
Exec prods: Adam Sandler, Allen Covert, Tim Herlihy, Todd Garner, John Jacobs
Prods: Jack Giarraputo, Barry Bernardi
Scr: David Dorfman
Cinematography: Donald M McAlpine
Prod des: Alan Au
Music: Teddy Castellucci
Main cast: Adam Sandler, Jack Nicholson, Marisa Tomei, John Turturro, Luis Guzman, Woody Harrelson, John Turturro, John C Reilly, Heather Graham, Allen Covert