Analyze That (United States, 2002)

A movie review by James Berardinelli

Analyze That delivers its share of amusing moments, but, when it comes to inventive or inspired comedy, it is lacking. The movie is funnier than a lot of what's available in multiplexes, but that's more a condemnation of the sad state of big screen humor than it is a rousing endorsement of this motion picture. There's nothing horribly wrong with Analyze That, but there's nothing remarkable about it, and, in terms of its overall enjoyability quotient, it falls short of the mark set by its predecessor, Analyze This.

It's ironic that one of the best comedic performances given this year comes not from noted funnymen Robin Williams, Jim Carrey, or Adam Sandler (all of whom are spending time exploring serious acting), but from dramatic actor Robert De Niro. As was the case in Analyze This, the primary reason to see the movie is De Niro, whose deadpan lampoon of his gangster image is Analyze That's high point. However, while De Niro is great and the rest of the cast, including Billy Crystal, Lisa Kudrow, and Joe Viterelli, delivers solid support, the material has a lukewarm, lackluster feel. Instead of frequent belly-laughs, I experienced occasional, amused chuckles. I expect more from director Harold Ramis, who has been responsible, amongst other projects, for Ghostbusters (which he co-wrote) and Groundhog Day (which he co-wrote and directed).

The film picks up several years after the original Analyze This. Mob boss Paul Vitti (Robert De Niro) is in prison, and, fearing that someone is trying to whack him, he pretends to have a nervous breakdown. This results in his alternately singing showtunes and falling into a catatonic state. Psychiatrist Ben Solol (Billy Crystal), his ex-therapist, whose father has just died, is summoned to Sing Sing to examine Paul. When he pronounces the prisoner to be genuinely ill, the Feds decide to release Paul, but on one condition – Ben has custody. Of course, once the two of them are on the way back to Ben's New Jersey home, Paul reverts to form. For a while, he tries to go straight, experimenting with getting a real job (working at a car dealership, tying his hand at being a maitre d). Ultimately, however, the pressure to get back into the business of organized crime is too great, and he's soon using his new position as a cable TV show consultant as a front for illegal activity.

When Analyze This was released, a number of critics noted similarities between the movie's central premise (a mob bigwig going to a shrink to stop panic attacks) and that of a new HBO series called "The Sopranos." Analyze That openly lampoons the successful television drama by having Paul earn his legitimate bread and butter by providing a sense of authenticity to the Sopranos-like "Little Caesar," which stars Anthony LaPaglia in the James Gandolfini part. Some of the best laughs come on and around the "Little Caesar" set. Others successfully humorous moments include De Niro belting out tunes from West Side Story and Ben's rigorous examination to determine whether Paul is faking catatonia. (This scene also provides the best outtakes, which are shown over the end credits.)

Analyze That is at its weakest when it wanders into dramatic territory, as when circumstances force Ben to come to grips with the powerful influence his dead father had upon his life. This part of the movie doesn't work, and serves largely to pad out the running length. For the most part, Analyze That is a genial and unremarkable comedy with its share of tepid laughs. It's a significantly weaker offering than its edgier, livelier older brother, and carries the scent of something produced exclusively because there was money to be made.

Analyze That (United States, 2002)

Run Time: 1:35
U.S. Release Date: 2002-12-06
MPAA Rating: "R" (Profanity, Violence, Sexual Situations, Nudity, Drugs)
Subtitles: none
Theatrical Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1