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Anger Management’ helps to spread the love

Adam Sandler’s latest endeavor, the movie “Anger Management,” opens Friday. If you happen to be a Sandler fan, you won’t be disappointed.

With an all-star cast and surprising cameo appearances, “Anger Management” is the not-so-serious version of Michael Douglas’ 1993 movie “Falling Down.” The movie opens in 1978 in Brooklyn, N.Y. with Sandler as Dave Buznik, who is humiliated by a bully. This unfortunate incident stays with him his entire life, eventually rendering him mild-mannered and afraid to stand up for himself. He is basically a wimp to anyone who is willing to push him around, which sums up everybody in his life in New York.

Sandler plays a businessman who is wrongly sentenced to an anger-management program after an incident with a stewardess. Enter Jack Nicholson as Dr. Buddy Rydell, the aggressive anger-management specialist who rescues Buznik from a year in prison.

Marisa Tomei plays Buznik’s girlfriend, Linda. Frankly, she did a far better job in this movie than in the one that won her that Academy Award in 1992, “My Cousin Vinny.”

The focus of “Anger Management” is confronting past hurts, dealing with them as a grown-up and the empowerment that is inherent in such an experience. With all emotional or psychological change, there is difficulty in admitting one has an issue to deal with and trusting another to help guide one through the issue to its other side. In this movie, the audience empathizes with Sandler’s character and is taken on a journey through the trials and tribulations of dealing with the anger repressed by Buznik.

The talents of Nicholson and Sandler are impressive. In classic fashion, Nicholson plays his character as an edgy, at times sadistic, curmudgeon who inspires Buznik’s faith and confidence.

Nicholson plays the character of Dr. Rydell with such wit, timing and substance that one is continuously wondering what he’ll do next and whether or not he’s up to something.

Sandler downplays his character, rightfully so in some regards. In this movie, however, he’s not “Happy Gilmore” or “Billy Madison” or “The Waterboy.” No, in this movie he’s actually Dave Buznik and no one else. Granted, his comedic talent is a bit tuned down, but what shines through is an actual actor who stands up rather well beside Nicholson.

John Turturro plays Chuck, a member of the “fury fighters,” the anger-management group Buznik finds himself in. Turturro does an outstanding job in this movie, stealing all scenes he’s in. Better than in “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” Turturro really relaxes and glides into the shoes of an angry psychotic who somewhere has a heart.

The cameo appearances in this movie are amazing. It’s as if everyone wanted to get his or her face in this movie. Woody Harrelson plays a transvestite named Galaxia, Clint Black passes off as a massage therapist, even former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani cashes in playing himself. There is an odd assortment of other noteworthy appearances.

Of course Sandler’s buddies also made the cut in the movie. “Saturday Night Live” alum Kevin Nealon plays Sam, his attorney; and Allen Covert, of “The Wedding Singer” fame, plays Andrew, a testosterone bulging nemesis of Buznik’s.

While it was a formula-Hollywood-ending, feel-good movie (does Sandler do anything else?), I couldn’t help but wonder how much this movie was a pitch for New York. Almost every scene is filled with the finer sides of the city: its parks, skyline and bridges. Even Yankee Stadium is in the final scene along with the former mayor.

Hmmm … Are we sure this movie isn’t produced by the New York State Bureau of Tourism? Or perhaps the New York State Psychological Board?

Written by newcomer David Dorfman and directed by Peter Segal (“Tommy Boy”), “Anger Management” has its funny moments and a “touching” theme, if you’re into that.

I’ll make you one guarantee about this movie. You will never hear the Broadway musical hit song “I Feel Pretty” the same way again.