Analyze That Review

Dec 06, 2002 | 6:03am EST

Analyze That starts off with mob boss Paul Vitti (Robert De Niro) nearing the end of his prison term in Sing Sing. When he realizes that a rival family has put a hit on him he fakes craziness as a way out of the slammer. Vitti does this by singing the entire score to West Side Story over and over belting out tunes such as "Tonight tonight won't be just any night " in the middle of a riot in the prison cafeteria. With his parole date just a few weeks away Vitti is released to his longtime shrink Dr. Ben Sobel (Billy Crystal) whose father has just died. The film then follows Vitti as he tries to go the straight and narrow route rather than hitting people over the head with a baseball bat. Vitti ends up taking a token job as a consultant on a popular TV mob drama Little Caesars the perfect cover for him to get back into the business. Dr. Sobel meanwhile thinks he can cure Vitti of his organized crime affliction.

As Paul Vitti De Niro gets to play a dangerous and charismatic character--something he is great at--but also gets to show off his comedic side. The musical sequences in Analyze That with De Niro singing songs like "I Feel Pretty" from West Side Story are by far some of the best moments in the film. It brings a nice dimension to his otherwise tough character. De Niro's Vitti is also a great counterbalance to Crystal's Dr. Sobel a rather touchy-feely kind of guy. The two seasoned actors have spontaneity on screen that is hard to match. Friends star Lisa Kudrow resumes her role here as Laura Sobel Dr. Sobel's wife but her character is extremely untapped. She plays the ever-disapproving spouse at the beginning of the film but seems to disappear halfway through with the exception of a few lines peppered here and there. Joe Viterelli is also back as Vitti's driver Jelly. Viterelli does a wonderful job turning his typical thug character into a loveable badass who can still hustle considering he is a little old and a tad out of shape.

Analyze That was written and directed by Harold Ramis the comic genius behind Analyze This Groundhog Day National Lampoon's Vacation and Caddyshack. This second helping of Mafia comedy has just as many funny moments as the first if not more thanks in part to Crystal and De Niro. It's a shame Ramis didn't go further with De Niro's reincarnation of Tony from West Side Story. The story itself is a bit uninspired. In order to lead a Syndicate-free life Vitti devises a plan to rob a federal gold depository truck and frame the city's two rival families. It's a good concept but it is executed in a just a few scenes in the film's final moments. You get the impression someone came to the "darn it's time to wrap the film" realization three-quarters of the way in. The mob theme also feels unoriginal because HBO has already exploited it to its fullest extent with The Sopranos. Ramis however succeeds in making Analyze That an authentic New York-based tale by shooting the film entirely in NYC.

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