A mild-mannered man is mistakenly ordered into an anger management program to battle his inner demons--but it turns out the only real demon in his life is his unorthodox therapist.
According to Anger Management's resident anger expert, Dr. Buddy Rydell (Jack Nicholson), there are two kinds of temperamental personalities: explosive and implosive. An explosive personality is the guy who yells at the cashier when his coupons aren't accepted. An implosive personality is the cashier who takes the abuse day in and day out, then snaps suddenly and shoots everyone in the store. Apparently, this second type aptly describes our hero Dave Buznik (Adam Sandler), a nice enough fellow with a cute girlfriend (Marisa Tomei) who believes in him--and he needs that, since he has a problem standing up for himself, especially when his boss abuses him or the airline stewardess won't give him his headset. When he's sentenced to join Rydell's anger management program over some wildly concocted misunderstanding, the abrasive and confrontational doctor quickly decides that the problem is obvious: Dave is a walking time bomb. He diagnoses him with TAS (Toxic Anger Syndrome), and vows to help him come to terms with his demons. At first, Dave plays along, but when Buddy moves in with him for some intensive therapy--and systematically turns his life upside down--Dave reaches his breaking point. It's time to make a stand and be the man he knows he can be--without killing the good doctor in the process.
Sandler and Nicholson fans have to be wondering: Can two stars known for their highly volatile characterizations blend their unique personalities to create a lasting chemistry? Happily, yes. Sandler and Nicholson most assuredly click and, more importantly, look like they had a ball making the film. Nicholson plays the wacko Rydell at full tilt, almost going over the top but reining it in when it's required, while Sandler handles his straight-man character as carefully as he can. You let out a little sigh of relief, however, when the comedian finally does let loose, because a Sandler movie without one or two great meltdowns just isn't a Sandler movie. Management is also full of actors who've played angry people once or twice in their careers, including John Turturro (Do the Right Thing) and Luis Guzman (Traffic), who along with sports fanatic Nate (Jonathan Loughran) and two adult film stars Gina (January Jones) and Stacy (Krista Allen) are members of Rydell's therapy group, the ''Fury Fighters.'' Of course, no movie about anger would be complete without bringing in some of the real world's most famous bad tempers, so Anger Management features cameos by college basketball coach Bobby Knight, tennis pro John McEnroe and New York Yankee Roger Clemens. In fact, the film is just riddled with cameos--see how many you can spot.
I wish I could have been a fly on the wall when screenwriter David Dorfman pitched the idea to Sony Pictures: ''OK, it's about two guys who have problems with anger. One, who doesn't know he has a problem, ends up being treated by the other, who dealt with his anger issues by becoming a therapist. But here's the kicker! We'll get Sandler to play the hapless patient and Nicholson to be his doctor!'' The studio exec's eyes light up, money is exchanged and boom! You've got Anger Management. Yes, this combination seems like it should flow like honey from a hive, but the story relies too much on its two stars and too little on the overall concept. Like the studio exec, we expect a side-splitting comedy; what director Peter Segal (Nutty Professor II: The Klumps) delivers are some hysterical moments for Sandler and Nicholson--the duo sing West Side Story's ''I Feel Pretty'' while holding up traffic and kick the bejeezus out of a monk who used to be Dave's childhood tormentor (played by John C. Reilly)--coupled with a barely credible premise and stereotypical characters.
Granted, Adam Sandler and Jack Nicholson do not disappoint. But despite all the hype about Anger Management, you unfortunately walk away feeling only mildly amused.