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by Jordan Hiller

Anger Management (2003)

Notwithstanding the mysteriously rank Bulletproof, Adam Sandler has never had to sell out. (Yes, Little Nicky had a large budget and was overly ambitious and grandiose, but it was pure Sandler insanity). From his first beat down of kindergartners in Billy Madison to his latest beat down of a Buddhist monk in Anger Management, Sandler has always been allowed to go with his own flow, supply his brand, do what he thinks is funny - like beating people down who rarely if ever get beaten (Bob Barker comes to mind). The reason he has been allowed to be himself for so long in a town where conformity is the status quo (despite what all the "artists" there will tell you) is the most simple explanation in all the land: His movies make bus-loads of money.

Adam (I can call him this because we're both Jewish) knows what his audience wants and he never changes a thing (see Punch Drunk Love for a film where Sandler doesn't change a thing in a new way) - he has his little Happy Madison (production studio) cash and smile making machine down to scientific formula. He will keep reheating the harmless formula and serving it up over and over again until we are satisfied. In other words, Anger Management does not really deserve an actual review. If you have seen any Sandler film besides the aforementioned Bulletproof and Punch Drunk Love, you have essentially seen Anger Management. It is of the same mediocre, but entertainingly formulaic quality, significance, and interest as all the rest - don't let Jack's presence fool you.

The Sandler formula:

Luckless regular guy + standoffish personality × sweet, nice, pretty, young lady + social Dysfunction (severe immaturity) + Allen Covert + Beat Downs + Preposterous Cameos/clownish villain × awkward/ absurd + Feel Good Prepackaged Finale (wink) = $100,000,000.00

While the critic side of me realizes that this is all such irrelevant crap and it would be so easy to jump on the overcrowded bandwagon and trash Sandler and his indelicate, artless contribution to cinema, after seeing Anger Management (particularly seeing Anger Management after seeing Punch Drunk Love) there is a side of me that appreciates the phenomenal beauty of his movies, or rather of the development of his career.

Jack Nicholson * Kathy Bates * Harvey Keitel * John Turturro * Steve Buscemi * Winona Ryder * Peter Gallagher * Marissa Tomei * James Caan * John C. Reilly

Three of the people named on the list above have won Academy Awards. The rest have either been nominated, or have won other prestigious awards for fine contributions to the craft of acting. What all have in common is that they have each acted like jackasses in an Adam Sandler film. This can't be some coincidence or bizarre freak occurrence. He actually attracts these folks. They want to work with him!?

The beauty of Sandler is that he is successful while being so genuine. For example, although he draws these high profile talents who are clearly looking to loosen up (and score a mega-hit), he continues to employ all his old pals. Who do you think funds Rob Schneider and Dana Carvey flicks? Who else would let Kevin Nealon peg SAG Award winner Harry Dean Stanton in the face with a tennis ball? Sandler's films have become the Hollywood playground where the upper echelon gets to slosh around with the commoners and leave uninfected and untainted. The more I think about it, the more astounding it becomes. It seems like just yesterday Adam was yelling at that sneaky, obscene penguin.

The Formula as applied to Anger Management
  • Luckless - Small genitals exposed by bully.
  • Regular guy - Yankee fan, doesn't cheat on his girl, works in cubicle designing clothes for overweight cats.
  • Standoffish personality - Commitment phobic, insecure, unambitious.
  • Young lady - Marissa Tomei taking the money and running.
  • Social Dysfunction - Some anger, little self-respect.
  • Allen Covert - Friend of Tomei from college with mucho money and mucho bulge in his pants.
  • Beat downs - cocktail waitress, Nicholson, monk, phony assailant.
  • Preposterous cameos - Woody Harrelson as transvestite hooker/Yankee stadium security guard, Mayor Giuliani as himself with the line, "give her a five second Frencher", Bobby Knight, John McEnroe, Jeter and Clemens as guys with anger issues, and Heather Graham shoving brownies down her throat while practically naked, screaming "You think I'm a porker!."
  • Clownish villain - Covert and Kurt Fuller as Sandler's boss, although there is no prominent villain to overcome here as there was in Madison, Gilmore, or Deeds.
  • Awkward over Absurd - Obese cats, Graham, bar fight with blind man, Nicholson sleeps nude with Sandler, the whole movie.
  • Feel good prepackaged finale (wink) - Yankee Stadium marriage proposal as the crowd cheers.

Bonuses - Three halfway decent jokes for the Jews and shots of great New York landmarks including The Stadium, Central Park, and The 59th Street Bridge


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