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Anger Management (Blu-ray)
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment / 2003 / 106 Minutes / Rated PG-13
Street Date: May 20, 2008
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Reviewed by High-Def Digest Staff
Friday, May 16, 2008
Until I dug into this review, I was genuinely excited to catch the theatrical reboot of ‘Get Smart’ this summer. Sadly, any expectations I had dissipated when I discovered its director was none other than Peter Segal, the man responsible for such cringetastic junk as ‘My Fellow Americans,’ ‘Nutty Professor II,’ ‘The Longest Yard,’ and ‘Anger Management.’ Over the last fifteen years, Segal has tackled projects with immense potential and transformed them into irrelevant disappointments. As far as I’m concerned, any director who can’t work magic with funnyman Adam Sandler and legendary Oscar-winner Jack Nicholson isn’t worth his weight in box office gold.
Dave Buznik (Sandler) is a mild-mannered loser sentenced to anger management classes after a midair misunderstanding with a feisty flight attendant. To make matters worse, his court-assigned therapist, Buddy Rydell (Nicholson), is an unhinged egomaniac who seems to get a kick out of invading Dave’s personal life. Pushed to the brink of madness, Dave eventually develops genuine anger issues and fights to convince everyone that Buddy is the source of his troubles. But when Dave ends up in court a second time, the judge sentences him to intensive therapy that requires Buddy to move into his home. Fighting to save his relationship with his girlfriend Linda (Marisa Tomei) and escape from Buddy’s grip, Dave has to overcome a series of deep-seated insecurities and regain control of his life.
My biggest issue with Segal’s ‘Anger Management’ isn’t that it’s a terrible flick, but rather that it should’ve been so much better than it actually is. Adam Sandler’s Dave never emerges as a character worth rooting for; his sadsack meandering makes his inevitable rage seem forced and out-of-place. Nicholson’s Buddy is a paper-thin caricature of Nicholson’s own Hollywood persona; his rants and raves are so exaggerated that he becomes a cathartic demon rather than a memorable character. Worst of all, Tomei is given little to do and ends up going through the motions with one of the most underdeveloped female characters I’ve seen committed to film. Every actor is stuck on a one-note track, yet none of the characters seem to dwell in the same universe. The interplay and chemistry between the actors feels dull, the story itself is a linear collection of comedy clichés, and Segal seems to settle for slapstick anytime the film begins to run out of steam (which happens on a regular basis throughout the second and third acts).
And don’t get me started on the ending. Drawn out to excruciating lengths, the climax culminates in a predictably ridiculous it’s all good closer that undermines what little character development the film offered in the first place. It’s glaringly obvious that the script was always disconnected from the ending -- every line of dialogue and every scene seems to reject the very notion of the ultimate revelation. Buddy is such a negative force in Dave’s life that his true motivations are laughable and contrived. I understand that this brand of comedy requires a certain suspension of disbelief, but I refuse to write off the film’s sloppy scripting, poor pacing, and hit-or-miss gags as a product of the genre.
So what’s good? Honestly, the only thing I enjoyed in ‘Anger Management’ was a minor appearance from John Tuturro, as a Grenada veteran named Chuck, who is assigned to be Dave’s “anger buddy.” Tuturro is always a whirlwind of subtle comic genius and I sat up every time he appeared on screen -- he injects more sizzle into his performance than the rest of the cast combined. There are moments when Sandler, Tomei, and even Nicholson seem to phone in their scenes, but Tuturro’s portrayal of Chuck is a blaze of laughs that should’ve been the focus of the film.
In the end, ‘Anger Management’ is a disappointing effort from a second tier director, one that doesn’t deserve the attention its actors will likely attract. Don't get me wrong, I think Nicholson's a fantastic actor and Sandler's usual shtick is a lot of fun, but I couldn't sink my teeth into this one. While uber fans of the actors may be able to defend the film as good-dumb-fun, I prefer a comedy that tucks intelligent gags and sharp writing beneath its humor.
’Anger Management’ features a proficient 1080p/AVC-encoded transfer that offers more visual pizzazz than the usual high-def comedy. The palette is surprisingly naturalistic and allows each color to retain its vibrancy without appearing flushed or over-saturated. Black levels are also impressive and deep, boasting clean shadows that aren’t cluttered with noise or problematic crush. The entire image is more three-dimensional than its standard DVD counterpart and comes close to perfection on more than one occasion. Detail is striking at times, rendering each hair in Nicholson’s beard with precision. Elements like clothing fabric, tree leaves, and wallpaper stand out and imbue the picture with a enviable clarity that’s fairly uncommon in the genre. Better still, while the print had a few nicks and a moderate veneer of grain, I didn’t detect any intrusive artifacting, source noise, or edge enhancement.
If the transfer suffers from a single issue, it’s inconsistency. For every sharp and vivid series of scenes, I caught a lingering shot burdened by errant flatness, softness, or contrast instability. Admittedly, these brief eyesores are minor in the grand scheme of things, but they combine to continually distract and detract from the otherwise remarkable presentation. All in all, ‘Anger Management’ outclasses the standard DVD in every way -- there are just a few scenes that could use some remastering polish.
I’m pleased to see studios like Sony embracing lossless and uncompressed audio tracks on all of their releases, regardless of the source. Even a conversation-centric comedy like ‘Anger Management’ receives the full high-def treatment with a fairly accomplished Dolby TrueHD 5.1 surround track. Dialogue is clean and spread nicely across the front channels, dynamics are above average, and LFE support is used to great effect amidst all of Sandler and Nicholson’s shouting. The rear speakers also get a welcome dose of responsibility -- compared to most comedies, ‘Anger Management’ adds a convincing layer of ambience and interior acoustics to most every scene. In fact, every time an actor breaks an object on the floor or hurls something across the room, the speakers snap to and scatter shards of sound throughout the soundfield.
That’s not to say ‘Anger Management’ is the be-all-end-all of high-def audio. Despite the noteworthy attention to detail exhibited by its sound designers, the film simply offers a predictable sonic experience that doesn’t offer a defining “wow” moment. While I doubt the film will ever sound much better than it does here, the TrueHD track on this Blu-ray release merely does its job without offering audiophiles much to get excited about.
’Anger Management’ makes its high definition debut with the same basic supplements that appeared on the original DVD. Unfortunately, the content is painfully ordinary and presented in muddy 480i/p.
- Audio Commentary -- Jack Nicholson’s absence makes this commentary a shallow, chucklehead affair between director Peter Segal and Adam Sandler. Not only do the two men quote the movie and continually narrate the on-screen events, they forget to actually talk about the production, the script, or the on-set antics of its stars. Instead, Segal and Sandler congratulate each other on a regular basis, pausing to point out the comic stylings of every major and minor player that makes an appearance. Skip this pileup and visit the other features on the disc instead.
- Skull Session (SD, 18 minutes) -- Thankfully, this well-rounded EPK featurette steps up and provides far more information about the film’s production than the audio commentary. While it’s a bit heavy on film clips, the cast and crew interviews, behind-the-scenes footage, and casting tidbits were decent even for a guy who didn’t enjoy the flick. It covers a lot of ground for its runtime and ends just as it starts to grow tiresome.
- Deleted Scenes (SD, 10 minutes) -- I was surprised by this collection of cuts simply because two of the scenes are quite funny. I imagine fans will enjoy these bits as much as the film itself.
- Gag Reel (SD, 6 minutes) -- This dry collection of outtakes will only appeal to folks hunting for every last laugh they can find. Repetitive and meandering, these “gags” consist of the predictable gaffes and mistakes common to such a feature.
- My Buddy Jack (SD, 4 minutes) -- This embarrassing EPK love letter to Jack Nicholson is a sad excuse for a featurette simply because it gives the cast and crew one last chance to suck up to the legendary actor.
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’Anger Management’ may have a great premise, an intriguing pair of lead actors, and an excellent supporting cast, but it runs out of steam in the first thirty minutes and fails to live up to its potential. This Blu-ray release is also a bit hit-or-miss. While I was impressed with Sony’s excellent video transfer, I was underwhelmed by the disc’s TrueHD audio and disappointed with its banal supplemental package. Unless you’re already a fan of the film itself, give this one a rent before making a blind purchase.
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