Anyone who hoped that Punch-Drunk Love was a turning point for goon-king Adam Sandler should abandon all optimism before entering a multiplex to see Anger Management. Despite the promise from the smart trailer (which plays out one of the funniest scenes pretty much in its entirety), the presence of Ol' Jack, plus a ton of impressive cameos, Sandler's latest is a comedy sleepwalk, shuffling sightlessly from signposted gag to signposted gag. Yes, it's a comedy sleepwalk that took the No1 spot at the US box office, but with its string of cheap pops (like the shameless parading of ex-New York mayor Rudy Giuliani wearing an NYPD/FD baseball cap) it's hardly surprising Anger Management pleased crowds Stateside.
Sandler once again digs up his stiff-loser-prone-to-bursts-of-rage persona to play Dave Buznik, a fat-cat clothes designer (he literally designs clothes for overweight felines) forced to take an intense, 30-day anger-management course with maverick therapist Buddy Rydell (Nicholson). Buznik is a bundle of obvious neuroses - he's uncomfortable showing affection to his two-dimensional girlfriend (Marisa Tomei) in public, he's paranoid about the girth of his weiner and he lets his boss walk all over him. Rydell, however, is apparently certifiable, both in his methods and manner. After all, you can't have Jack Nicholson in a mainstream comedy without giving him a stage to prance about on.
So Sandler stutters and twitches, while Jack raises those eyebrows, grins maniacally and delivers the movie's few good lines ("Sarcasm is anger's ugly cousin"). The plot, meanwhile, veers from clumsily satirising America's therapy-mad culture - with the smirkworthy help of Luis Guzman and John Turturro - to going through the rom-commotions as Dave and his girlfriend's relationship hits the rocks.
There's a few half-decent set-pieces crowbarred in along the way, including Dave's smackdown with John C Reilly's school bully turned Buddhist monk, that airplane scene, and... Uh... The funny obese cat in funny clothes. As for the rest, it resorts to lame, vaguely homophobic sex jokes, the odd mild poo gag, several dick-size wheezes, a cluster of twatfalls and even some unnecessary HLA (that's "Hot Lesbian Action" for those of you who aren't pro-wrestling fans).
But, hey, this is an Adam Sandler Movie directed by the guy what did Naked Gun 331/3 and Nutty Professor II. We're talking lowest comedy denominator Yankee-style, not Larry Sanders or Seinfeld. If you're in an undemanding frame of mind and you've just pickled your cranium with a few crates of Bud, you'll do just fine. But if you're expecting sparky witticisms, or still basking in the glow of Punch-Drunk and About Schmidt, or even if you're looking for A-Grade Sandler (Happy Gilmore, The Wedding Singer), then you'll be stifling a yawn rather than busting a gut.
A lazy comedy that never lives up to the promise of its A-list central pairing, nor its raft of impressive cameos. So much talent... Shame none of it's behind the camera or script.