Analyze This

Analyze This has the dubious distinction of having one of the best movie titles in the last decade. The name alone made me impatiently wiggle in my seat waiting for the movie to start. I heard a lot about it before I went to see it, and I was pumped to see De Niro’s and Crystal’s very first movie pairing. And I was right to expect a delightful experience; a witty, upbeat comedy that is more concerned with making its audience laugh than any other of its cinematic virtues (or lack thereof).

This film was effectively preempted by the HBO series The Sopranos in concept, but certainly not in comedic originality (mainly because not too many people have actually seen the series). Analyze This has something that The Sopranos didn’t: two big-name stars capable of making almost anything funny. De Niro plays Paul Vitti, a notorious mobster who has trouble dealing with anxiety attacks and has no problem breaking out into a passionate wail at seemingly random moments. After hitting the mobsters’ car when stuck in traffic, psychiatrist Ben Sobol is put into the unenviable position of treating Vitti’s panic attacks in time for a meeting of all of the crime families, which happens to be in two weeks.

Sobol is also set to marry (his wife is played by the bright and shiny Lisa Kudrow) and, of course, Vitti and the gang always manage to ruin the wedding. Sobol then makes the grave mistake of yelling at a mobster (I mean, come on, I don’t care how insecure he is, you don’t yell at a man with a gun, never mind a man who controls ten other men with guns).

As you may have been able to tell, there is not much substance to Vitti’s emotional problems. Although there are mentions of his father being murdered, of guilt, etc., it’s not particularly touching or convincing. But who cares? Analyze This is chock full of deadpan humor, most of which actually works (“I go fag, you die,” Vitti cautions Sobol). Director Harold Ramis (who also headed the almost-classic Bill Murray comedy Groundhog Day) seems to know no boundaries but he also knows when to stop in regards to humor. It’s totally outrageous but never excessive or over-the-top; and often hilarious.

This is certainly a high-concept movie (one that can be made on concept alone, and does not necessarily need good execution to commercially succeed), but it’s also very well made; well acted, well written and well directed. De Niro, accustomed to playing gangsters, seems to be having fun being able to put a comedic spin on it. Crystal has to restrain himself in his role here; he’s a better person for it and the movie benefits too. But the source of much of the deadpan humor is Joe Viterelli as Jelly, Vitti’s bodyguard. The joke is on him — he looks so much like an authentic gangster, that to see him play a “mock gangster” is fall-off-your-chair delight.

The movie boasts some relatively sophisticated humor (no toilet gags here), and is aimed squarely at adults. It has the kind of satirical tone that won’t appeal to the younger crowd but will delight those that have seen De Niro play a mobster in films like The Godfather Trilogy.

Analyze This isn’t much in the form of plot or subtlety, but it’s a funny and enormously entertaining crowd-pleaser that should not disappoint anyone looking for a few good laughs. The pairing of two of the biggest Hollywood stars should alone be enough to convince you to see it. And the fact that it’s a good movie should help too.

-- Eugene Novikov

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