Analyze This
Analyze This USA, 1999.  Rated R.  103 minutes.

Cast: Robert De Niro, Billy Crystal, Lisa Kudrow, Joe Viterelli, Chazz Palminteri, Bill Macy, Leo Rossi, Kyle Sabihy, Rebecca Schull, Molly Shannon, Richard Castellano, Elizabeth Bracco
Writers: Ken Lonergan, Peter Tolan, Harold Ramis
Music: Howard Shore
Cinematographer: Stuart Dryburgh
Producers: Jane Rosenthal & Paula Weinstein
Director: Harold Ramis

Grade: D Review by Carlo Cavagna

T he mafia has been milked too much for drama, and it's also been milked too much for comedy. (I use the word "milked" because the movie features a cow during the opening credits). Just how many more times does Hollywood expect us to laugh at overweight Italian men bumbling about in expensive suits? Apparently the mere sight of an overweight Italian man in an expensive suit is supposed to be roaringly hilarious. Seriously, if there was no such thing as the Italian mob, Hollywood would have had to invent it. Crystal and De Niro

The premise of Analyze This is not exactly fresh. Sure, the idea of a mafia boss seeking therapy is pretty funny--but only for about half an hour. Then the Billy Crystal factor takes over. If there's any potential for over-sentimentality in a movie project, you can count on Billy Crystal to find it. He could turn Othello into an insipid, feel-good movie. Give Billy Crystal a story line involving therapy and you make his quest for schmaltz so much easier to fulfill.

Analyze This may be a comedy, but Crystal and director Harold Ramis want us to take seriously the idea that De Niro's character (Paul Vitti) has some hidden emotional trauma--as if any single incident during the formative years of a career criminal could explain his entire life. Crystal's character (Dr. Ben Sobel) doesn't give up. He persists in his attempts to coax Vitti to a genuine emotional breakthrough, which is finally achieved during--get this--a gun fight! Not a bad idea in theory, perhaps, but remarkably unfunny in practice.
The Big Picture

Billy Crystal is amusing as long as he's playing the straight man to Robert De Niro's manic mob boss. Crystal is not content with being the straight man, however. He can't let the movie end without proving that he, too, is a nutty comedian. Crystal finally gets to display his talent for wackiness in a scene where Dr. Sobel takes Vitti's place at a meeting of all the area crime bosses. There we are regaled with Crystal's exaggerated and overly long impression of a stereotypical mafioso. Alec Baldwin did a much better impression of De Niro on Saturday Night Live.

As long as De Niro is getting all the laughs, Analyze This remains watchable, but as Crystal takes over the movie, Analyze This becomes less and less bearable. The trouble is, Robert De Niro is a better comedian than Billy Crystal, whose career has been in a free-fall since City Slickers. In fact, Crystal has sunk so far that De Niro ought to consider deducting his participation in this movie from his tax return as an act of charity. Lisa Kudrow, who gets no funny lines in a thankless supporting role as Dr. Sobel's fiancee, might consider doing so as well. You certainly have to be in a charitable mood to sit through all of Analyze This.

Review © March 1999 by AboutFilm.Com and the author.
Images © 1999 Warner Bros. All rights reserved.