Analyze That

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As is often the case with sequels, Analyze That comes nowhere near the genuine hilarity of its predecessor, Analyze This. The premise of the earlier film which kept it funny throughout, was the tough guy from the mob, Paul Vitti (Robert De Niro), seeing a headshrinker, Ben Sobol (Billy Crystal), a matchup in which the cliches of contemporary shrink-speak were thrown into sharp relief against the down-to-earth no-nonsense street talk of the gangster. While the former approaches problems with sensitive, supportive advice about feelings, the latter is more likely to use a .45 and a block of cement.

When Analyze That opens, Vitti is in prison and someone is trying to kill him. Then he seems to crack, breaking into the "Jet Song" from West Side Story and generally exhibiting symptoms of a schizoid manic depressive. It’s a ruse, of course. Sobol is called in to test and diagnose Vitti and Vitti is then released into Sobol’s custody. De Niro makes a funny catatonic and the psych jokes in this opening sequence are promising. Rather gratuitously to the story, Sobol has just lost his father, leading to some tired jokes about eulogies (what he says vs. what he’s really thinking) and a line about grieving being a process, which is repeated constantly throughout the film. It wasn’t funny the first time and it gets less so with each lame repetition.

Once Vitti is established in Sobol’s home–to the great distress of Sobol’s wife, Laura (wonderful and under-used Lisa Kudrow)–he is supposed to find a new, honest career, which leads to some not-so-funny bits in which he tries being a maitre d’, a car salesman, a jewelry salesman. He finally finds a job that fits, as the advisor/consultant to a TV series about the mob. But, unsurprisingly, once a mobster always a mobster, and what Vitti is really up to is to get the parties who tried to kill him when he was in jail. This brings him into the thick of a war between two "families," one led by Patti LoPresti (Cathy Moriarty-Gentile) who yells at her daughter, "Shut the fuck up and get ready for ballet."

While the earlier segments of Analyze That manager to deliver some wit and a few good laughs, the premise of the successful original is essentially abandoned early on in favor of an uninteresting and predictable plot-driven story from which the laughs disappear all too quickly. The attempts at humor descend into run-of-the-mill physical schtick–even the adolescents won’t find the ball-squeezing joke funny any more. Crystal on pills getting drunk on saki is a yawner and a whole number on Crystal putting a gun in the waist of his trousers only to have the gun slip further down is so unfunny as to be an embarrassment to director/writer Harold Ramis (Bedazzled, Analyze This, Groundhog Day.)

Arthur Lazere

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San Francisco, CA
Mr. Lazere founded culturevulture.net in 1998 and worked tirelessly to promote its potential as a means for communicating a distinctly personal yet wide-ranging selection of arts reviews. Under his leadership, the site grew in esteem as well as in “circulation", and is well-regarded nationally and internationally as a source for up-to-date, well-written criticism. Arthur passed away on September 30, 2006.