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'Angriest Man in Brooklyn' DVD can't find itself

The Angriest Man in Brooklyn


"The Angriest Man in Brooklyn," newly released on DVD, is a hard movie to watch. In one of his last performances, Robin Williams stars as an emotionally troubled man driven to attempting suicide after receiving a terminal medical diagnosis. A combination of the cold passage of time and family tragedy have turned his once happy husband and father named Henry Altmann into the abrasive, crude and now family alienated title character. He badgers a fill-in doctor (Mila Kunis) into frustratedly telling him he has only ninety minutes to live. This sets him off on a crazed mission to make up for lost time.

It's also a hard movie to watch because it never clearly establishes a tone. You don't know whether to laugh or cry over what often seems to want to be a comedy but is too harsh, ugly and sometimes earnestly ludicrous to generate laughter. In addition, the script can't figure out whether Williams' tragic quest for redemption or Kunis' race to right the wrong she did him is the central focus. The result is an unsatisfying and uninteresting time split between them. Still further hampering this hodgepodge is an incessant and intrusive soundtrack that's just as uncertain as the action it underscores.

In spite of it all, Williams is terrific. He's the only thing that might make you stick with it to the end. He exhibits some particularly brilliant and classic Robin Williams nuance in a rapid recap of the days events to a police officer. There's also a funny but uncomfortable scene with James Earl Jones as a greatly exaggerated stuttering store cashier. Jones probably did it just for director Phil Alden Robinson, the writer-director he worked with in the grand slam baseball fantasy "Field of Dreams." Unfortunately, "The Angriest Man in Brooklyn" never makes it to first base.