A comedic film actor needs to play to his strengths as a comedian.
Chris Farley’s strength was falling through tables.
Bill Murray has sarcastic one-liners.
By the same token, Adam Sandler is at his comedic best while being manic.
His subdued performance in Punch Drunk Love garnered him excellent critical notice, but comedically speaking, his best moments are when he’s doing something completely off the wall, like his now immortal brawl with Bob Barker in Happy Gilmore.
Sandler’s newest vehicle finds him strangely subdued, playing straightman to Jack Nicholson (back in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest/Batman mode.)
Sandler plays Dave Buznik – one of those guys who outwardly seems to be doing well.
He has a lovely girlfriend, Linda (Marisa Tomei) and a good job.
But on the inside, Dave holds a lot of anger and rage.
Most of it is directed toward his boss Frank (Kurt Fuller), who has made Dave his personal doormat.
Enter Dr. Buddy Rydell (Nicholson).
After a preposterous misunderstanding on a plane, Dave ends up in Rydell’s anger management class.
After further ludicrous plot mechanics, the good doctor ends up saving Dave from a jail sentence by volunteering to stay at his apartment and give him round the clock treatment.
Predictably, Rydell’s treatment is quite unorthodox.
His techniques include making Dave try to pick up women, and sleeping in the same bed nude.
Anger Management does has its funny moments, mostly when Sandler is allowed to let loose.
One standout scene involves a maniacal Sandler accosting a monk.
Also, there are several funny and unexpected cameos.
Jon Turturro, who played the very, very sneaky butler in Sandler’s 2002 Mr. Deeds, has his moments.
Unfortunately, these moments are few and far between.
The movie is mostly content to labor on with tired humor involving the blind and homosexuality.
Besides that, the majority of the comedy comes from scenes focusing on Nicholson abusing Sandler.
These scenes don’t work for one big reason – Nicholson’s character.
Rydell comes off as annoying and dangerously unstable.
This is irritating because, as any avid moviegoer knows, the odd couple will eventually grow to grudgingly respect one another.
The movie is also too plot-driven.
This wouldn’t have been a problem, except the plot is ridiculously predicable.
Everything that is supposed to be a surprise is painfully obvious long before it happens.
A scene is shoehorned into the beginning of the movie to explain why Dave doesn’t like to kiss his girlfriend while other people are watching.
Anyone who comes out to the movies more than once or twice a year will pick up on the fact that this will probably come into play later on in the proceedings.
There are certainly worse films out there.
This one isn’t a horrible film; it’s just surprisingly flat.
The actors don’t appear to be putting much effort into their acting.
They all just seem to be going through the motions.
This is disappointing, since Sandler and Nicholson’s last films (Punch Drunk Love and About Schmidt) were some of their finest work.
Fans of either actor would be best advised to wait until this film comes out on video.
Chuck Delross can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.