D: Phil Alden Robinson / 92m
Cast: Robin Williams, Mila Kunis, Peter Dinklage, Melissa Leo, Hamish Linklater, Chris Gethard, Bob Dishy, Isiah Whitlock Jr, James Earl Jones, Richard Kind, Daniel Raymont
Henry Altmann (Williams) is having a bad day. He’s on his way to a doctor’s appointment when his car is hit by a taxi. Being the angry man that he is, Henry antagonises the taxi driver (Raymont) who drives off. Meanwhile, junior doctor Sharon Gill (Kunis) is on her way to work, and feeling sad over the death of her cat. Sharon is standing in for Henry’s usual physician, Dr Fielding. When Henry gets to his appointment and is then kept waiting for two hours, and Sharon walks in instead of Dr Fielding (an uncredited Louis C.K.), Henry blows a(nother) gasket. Sharon does manage to tell Henry that the result of a recent test he’s had shows that he has a brain aneurysm and that his life expectancy is uncertain. Unimpressed by this, Henry bullies Sharon into giving him a timescale. Flustered, and just to get Henry off her back, Sharon tells him ninety minutes.
Henry leaves the hospital. He decides to spend his ninety minutes trying to tell his family – brother Aaron (Dinklage), ex-wife Bette (Leo), and son Tommy (Linklater) – that he loves them, but this is easier thought of than done. Henry’s anger has alienated him from everyone, so when he tries calling them they don’t take or return his calls. Back at the hospital, Sharon tells a colleague, Dr Reed (Gethard), what happened with Henry. He tells her she has to find him and put things right. While Henry attempts to put things right himself, Sharon tries to track him down but keeps missing him, enlisting the help of Aaron and Bette in her efforts. Having tried his best with his brother and ex-wife, Henry is now hell-bent on seeing Tommy, with whom he has unresolved issues over Tommy’s choice of career.
A remake of the Israeli movie Mar Baum (1997), The Angriest Man in Brooklyn jettisons that movie’s religious overtones and more “racy” content, for a somewhat distant and unremarkable look at a man for whom no slight should be ignored without ranting about it first. Henry is a man who shouts first and has no intention of asking questions later, a bully who thinks it’s okay to castigate people for ruining his day. As the movie’s main protagonist Henry is a thoroughly dislikable character; when he’s told about the aneurysm, chances are the audience will be cheering, so objectionable is he. But the movie can’t sustain such a premise, and as the story unfolds, Henry’s attempts to reconcile with his family show a softer, less antagonistic side to his nature. But then the movie remembers what it’s called, and once more Henry vents his spleen in ways that are neither funny or understandable. It’s a problem the movie never quite overcomes: should Henry remain a curmudgeon until the end, or should he see the error of his ways?
Ultimately, it doesn’t matter, because the script by Daniel Taplitz combines with Robinson’s leaden direction to create a movie where the actors are about as convincing as a cat conducting an orchestra. The Angriest Man in Brooklyn is advertised as a comedy first and a drama second, but the humour is forced and the drama is undercooked, leaving the audience wondering if they were meant to root for Henry as some kind of underdog, or even Sharon, as she’s ostensibly a good person. Sadly, neither is possible, as both characters are shallow to the point of being puddles, and possess all the fascination of navel lint.
It’s actually difficult to say just how bad this movie is. There’s not one honest moment in the whole movie, not one moment that the viewer can relate to or empathise with, such is the ponderous, tired approach to the material. Robinson, who gave us the sublime Field of Dreams (1989), seems to have no clue as to how to set up even the simplest of scenes, and some appear as if they’re filmed rehearsals rather than the finished item. It’s also an incredibly cheap looking movie (highlighted by Henry’s walk across some girders on the Brooklyn bridge), and has all the visual appeal of a low-budget TV mystery of the week.
As mentioned above, the cast fail to bring anything remotely interesting to relieve the dullness of the enterprise. Williams is a fine dramatic actor, but here he coasts along, investing Henry with the bare minimum of pathos, and never once making him sympathetic (even when the script tries to make him so). Kunis is just as dilatory, endowing Sharon’s predicament with all the emotional resonance attendant on tracking down some kitty litter (hang on, no, she doesn’t need any, does she?). Dinklage and Leo do just enough to avoid being tedious, while Linklater (Williams’ co-star in the short-lived TV show The Crazy Ones) sports the expression of someone whose just realised his career may be stalling before it’s even begun.
Rating: 3/10 – incredibly dull throughout, and unrewarding beyond measure, The Angriest Man in Brooklyn should be retitled The Man Whose Aneurysm Didn’t Kill Him Quickly Enough; a career low point for most everyone concerned (Williams still has Patch Adams (1998) and Bicentennial Man (1999) on his résumé), and not even worth a watch to see if it is as bad as it looks.