These days, movie audiences want to laugh in the worst way. And that's just the way they've been doing it, making box-office champs of the likes of 'Bringing Down the House,' 'Just Married' and that rapping kangaroo movie. With people wanting to laugh that badly, 'Anger Management' has hit written all over it.
After all, look at the casting: Adam Sandler and Jack Nicholson. Talk about your odd couple. This has gotta be hilarious. And if you want it to be, it probably will be. Maybe. Kind of.
This isn't the Adam Sandler nobody wanted to see in 'Punch-Drunk Love' (come to think of it, nobody wanted to see 'Eight Crazy Nights' or 'Mr. Deeds' all that much either, but that's another story). It's pretty much the familiar Sandler persona, but the funny thing Ñ just keep telling yourself it's funny, it's funny Ñ is that his trademark rage is absent. You see, his Dave Buznik is a pet clothing designer so mild mannered he can't kiss his girlfriend (Marisa Tomei) in public. But in these hypersensitive times a misunderstanding is enough to land him in court, where he's sentenced to undergo anger management therapy.
And we all know who his therapist is, don't we? Repeat after me: Heeeere's Johnny!
This isn't the Nicholson of 'About Schmidt.' This is his royal Jackness, all eyebrows all the time. And the cat-that-ate-the-aviary grin that comes easily when you're being paid umpteen million dollars to do something like this.
Of course Jack's Dr. Buddy Rydell Ñ 'Temper is the one thing you can't get rid of by losing it' Ñ is a major loon whose treatment could make a raging bull of Gandhi. Poor Dave doesn't stand a chance.
So that's the deal, waiting for Sandler's anger to emerge at the hands of wacky Jack. Like most of today's comedies, it's all premise. And like most comedies starring 'Saturday Night Live' veterans, we know it's funny because these people were funny on TV, sometimes for as much as five minutes straight.
Ask yourself, for example, how funny Dr. Buddy would be if he wasn't Jack. OK, maybe if he was Christopher Walken or Dr. Phil or that rapping kangaroo, but you know what I mean. The part itself isn't really that funny. Then ask yourself how funny Dave would be if he wasn't Adam Sandler. OK, don't waste your time with that one. But you could ask yourself if Tomei's role was the kind of thing she was planning on when she won that Oscar a few years ago.
As directed by Peter Segal (the auteur of 'The Nutty Professor II'), the film is loaded with funny cameos that are mostly funny because of who they are: Woody Harrelson as a cross-dressing hooker, Heather Graham as a babe (maybe she and Harrelson should have traded), Harry Dean Stanton as a blind man, John C. Reilly as a neighborhood bully turned Buddhist and several others.
Best of all is John Turturro as another of Dr. Buddy's patients, a severely disturbed veteran. What's disturbing is that he's a veteran of Grenada. When he's on, you can stop telling yourself, 'This has gotta be hilarious,' and laugh for real.