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film criticism by maryann johanson | since 1997

Anger Management (review)

I thought I had given up trying to understand the appeal of The Adam Sandler Movie(TM), and then along comes something so diametrically opposite of the typical ASM and yet so similarly misbegotten that it simply demands explanation. Though I’m certain I’ll be unable to provide it for myself. Instead of his usual crude, lewd dude, here Sandler — perhaps inspired by his meek, mild Punch-Drunk Lover — is doormat Dave Buznik, who lets the entire world push him around. Fair enough: the world is full of doormats. But Dave gets pushed beyond the point at which the Dalai Lama would break, by events that strain credulity even in a fantasy, all as a result of his “therapy” with Dr. Buddy Rydell, who is Jack Nicholson (The Pledge) at his most disgustingly obnoxious. And Dave, however unlikely this seems from either the perspective of reality or that of the typical ASM, never breaks. It’s the Comedy of Humiliation: How far and how badly can screenwriter David Dorfman and director Peter Segal (Nutty Professor II: The Klumps) embarrass and denigrate Dave for the audience’s amusement before we either laugh out of sheer discomfort or walk out in disgust? And how far will fine actors like Luis Guzmán, John C. Reilly, and John Turturro debase themselves in the quest for a paycheck? Enduring this film was an experiment in anger management for me: Would I make it through to the end credits, or would I rise in fury and throw a 20-ounce bottle of Diet Dr. Pepper at the screen?


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MPAA: rated PG-13 for crude sexual content and language

viewed at a semipublic screening with an audience of critics and ordinary moviegoers

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