I love Robin Williams, but he’s almost too good an actor to play the title role in The Angriest Man in Brooklyn: his fury is so palpable that it’s actually hard to watch. That might work if the film were a farce, but this modest new release doesn’t seem to know what chord to strike: it veers wildly from madcap farce to social satire to sentimental family drama.
Williams plays a Jewish lawyer who’s angry at the world in general, not entirely without reason. When he encounters a stressed-out doctor (Mila Kunis) who has the unenviable task of telling him he has a brain aneurism, he so berates her that she impulsively tells him he only has an hour and a half to live. That shocking news prompts him to try to put his life in order in just 90 minutes’ time. There are good moments here and there, and a strong cast including Peter Dinklage, Melissa Leo, James Earl Jones, Hamish Linklater, Richard Kind, Bob Dishy, and Isiah Whitlock, Jr. Even Broadway darling Sutton Foster turns up in a brief, thankless role. With all that talent involved, and Phil Alden Robinson (Field of Dreams, In the Mood) in the director’s chair, it’s a shame this isn’t a better film.
The borough of Brooklyn provides a pleasing variety of locations, as well. But Daniel Taplitz’s screenplay, adapted from the Israeli film The 92 Minutes of Mr. Baum, tries to cover too many bases. A scene in which Williams tries to purchase a video camera from a stammering James Earl Jones is positively embarrassing. The film as a whole unspools in less than 90 minutes, which is to its credit…but there’s little else to praise in this forgettable comedy-drama.
The Angriest Man in Brooklyn opens in theaters today, and is also available on Video on Demand.