Newsnight Review discussed Jack Nicholson's lessons on keeping your temper in Anger Management.
(Edited highlights of the panel's review taken from the teletext subtitles that are generated live for Newsnight Review.)
This is a stupid, silly, sloppy, soppy, sickly sentimental, awful film. I neglected last week, reviewing Ripley's Game, to mention that John Malkovich in that was like the missing link between Niles from Frasier and Charlie Manson. In this, Jack Nicholson is the missing link between Jack Nicholson and Jack Nicholson. That can be OK in some films, but this is so appalling. It's one of Jack's worst choices. I hope he got paid an awful lot of money. It's one of those films where you can see actors being pushed into their schedules, so they can deal with the film. They're all playing comedians to Sandler's straight man. You
get John Turturro and John C Reilly. You get Luis Guzman, Heather Graham, Harry Dean Stanton. Really good actors and actresses, all coming in for their notional cameos. You see the whole thing's stitched together. There's a notional story about Nicholson somehow curing Sandler, but effectively, you just see the whole thing put together. The ending, when they all dance around in Central Park, like some kind of Ecstasy casualties, really makes you hate Hollywood so much that you do end up needing your own anger management.
It starts off with this rather brave line in the seat on the plane, where the stewardess says "This is a difficult time for this country." It's as if they're actually daring to send up September 11 sensitivity, racial sensitivity, even send up therapy. Then it becomes this rather trashy, gross-out comedy.
What troubles me more than
this terrible film is Nicholson. I suspect he has been having us on for about 20 years, since The Shining. I think the man has decided which way Hollywood is going. He's going for the money. It's disgusting to see the things he's been doing for the last couple of years.
The Pledge, About Schmidt. Those are not trashy, Hollywood films, are they?
If you look at his films and you lay them out, this is a guy who is demonstrating for us. "I can play this, watch me do this." I don't believe him any more as an actor. This is the crowning glory of his cynicism. I thought the film was so disgusting.
It's like saying, "I can play against this guy."
In his next film, he'll play Mother Teresa, just to show us that he can do all these different things.
I think that's harsh. I think
in The Pledge and About Schmidt he'd shown that he could do different performances. He now, it's true, has gone back to his default psychopath.
If you compare Sandler and Nicholson against, for instance, Stiller and Robert De Niro in Meet the Parents, I think there's a very derivative scene, on this plane. It looks almost like a straight copy of Ben Stiller in an almost identical situation on the plane, which was a hell of a lot funnier, and a lot better played out. It quite sad to watch. It's just such a bad film, it's hard and painful for me to watch Jack Nicholson get more and more embarrassed as he's laying these very contrived lines out, especially when he keeps threatening to send Adam Sandler back to prison. Each time he says it, it sounds more and more painful for him to say those lines.
In its defence, it is a mess this film, but there are smart lines. But then something very odd happens. At the end, we have former Mayor Giuliani. Although this film has been trashed, a lot of people are going to write about this, because it's so specifically post-September 11th. Mayor Giuliani stands up, we are in Yankee Stadium, and gives this message to the people of New York.
Every time they do something like that, it's like when John McEnroe makes his cameo appearance. You think, first of all, "OK, it's a fairly amusing idea." Then they actually let the man out, which is really a bad move. It completely ruins the joke.