Unlikely Pair

Sandler and Nicholson don't save 'Anger Management' from mediocrity.

Adam Sandler executive produced Rob Schneider's trio of abysmal comedies (Deuce Bigelow, The Animal, The Hot Chick), and those films had the distinction of being far worse than any Sandler-headlined comedy currently in the archives. But with the release of Anger Management, the chasm separating Sandler movies from that annoying Schneider garbage has become a lot smaller.

It was somewhere around the middle of this movie when something significant dawned on me: I wasn't happy, and since happiness often begets laughter, not much chortling was taking place on my part. The movie is a stiff embarrassment for nearly all of those involved. While Sandler unchained can be a very funny thing (Happy Gilmore and, yes, Little Nicky), this movie has him in a comedic straitjacket.

Compounding the feeling of missed opportunities is the presence of a little guy named Jack Nicholson in the cast. The casting of Nicholson is quite the stunt. Incorporating an esteemed actor of Nicholson's ilk into a Sandler vehicle provides the chance to expand the audience. It also gives Sandler, who finally got some critical respect for Punch-Drunk Love, the chance to show that he has the moxie and chops to share the screen with a Hollywood giant.

As Dave Buznik, a soft spoken advertising exec who creates clothing for obese cats, Sandler is actually in a mode very similar to his repressed rage monster in Punch Drunk Love: quiet and nervous with something unholy brewing under the surface. Nicholson, after being so uncharacteristically squished in About Schmidt, gets a chance to go nuts as Dr. Buddy Rydell, a self-help guru assigned to Dave after he's wrongly convicted for assault on an airplane. The eyebrows and devilish grin are going full-throttle.

The film shows shades of The Odd Couple (minus the laughter) as Nicholson's Rydell moves in with Sandler's Buznik to conduct round-the-clock anger management therapy. In a moment reminiscent of John Candy and Steve Martin sharing a bed in Planes Trains and Automobiles (minus the laughter), Sandler and Nicholson must bunk together. Nicholson lets out a predictable fart, and I need to see a film with Jack farting like ... actually, there is no real need to finish this thought.

The reality is that no matter how outrageous or potentially clever the teaming of Sandler and Nicholson might've appeared on paper, they stink together. The two have zero comedic chemistry, and matters aren't helped much by a script that magnifies all that is bad in current Sandler comedies. That schmaltzy stink that started to waft up with The Wedding Singer, becoming unbearably putrid by Mr. Deeds, has reached full-blast for this one. The Adam Sandler sweetheart comedy where he's just a cute guy under a screwed up exterior has got to go. Throw the formula out with the stale smelling empty beer bottles and start over.

If there were a medal and box of treats handed out for the Lamest Movie Ending in History Award, Anger Management would be in the running. Dave proposes to his fiancé (Marisa Tomei, yet another Oscar winner in this turd) from the field at Yankee Stadium, where his voice, sans microphone, travels nicely over the deafening roar of 50,000 fans. A last-minute explanation of all that has happened before with the Nicholson character isn't as clever as it thinks it is.

When you have Sandler and Nicholson in your comedy, and the funniest things about it are a pissed-off obese cat and Roger Clemens, something has gone awry. Nicholson hasn't raised the bar on a Sandler comedy after raising some major expectations.

Maybe Sandler just isn't funny. Perhaps I was just an immature ass four or five years ago.