Analyze This (1999)
Directed by Harold Ramis
Cast: Billy Crystal, Robert De Niro, Joe Viterelli, Lisa Kudrow, Chazz Palminteri, Bill Macy, Leo Rossi, Kyle Sabihy, Rebecca Schull, Molly Shannon, Max Casella, Pat Cooper, Richard Castellano, Jimmie Ray Weeks, Elizabeth Bracco.
1999 106 minutes
Rated: (for profanity, sexual situations, and violence).
Reviewed by Dustin Putman, March 6, 1999.
Reading the cast and director for the new mobster comedy, "Analyze This," I asked myself, "how could this miss?" Robert De Niro ("Taxi Driver," "Raging Bull"), Billy Crystal ("City Slickers"), Lisa Kudrow ("The Opposite of Sex"), and Director Harold Ramis ("National Lampoon's Vacation"). These are usually reliable filmmakers (well, okay, Crystal has been in a sizable slump lately), and tellingly, the first half-hour of "Analyze This" was very funny. Unfortunately, as the running time ticked away, I began to think that the first thirty minutes had, unbeknownst to me, been rewound and were being replayed another two-and-a-half times. The film has obtained a clever premise, but does not have any idea what to do with it as it progressively becomes more and more repetitive until I finally stopped enjoying or caring about what was happening on the screen.
Middle-aged psychoanalyst Ben Sobel's (Billy Crystal) life is finally going very well. Although he has never gotten along with his own uncaring parents, especially his father, who is also a psychiatrist, Ben has an easy-going teenage son (Kyle Sabihy) and is about to travel down to Miami to get married to his TV news reporter girlfriend, Laura (Lisa Kudrow). In little but a flash, however, Ben suddenly sees his plans ruined when he accidentally hits the car of the mob and subsequently gets paid a visit from famed mafia guy Paul Vitti (Robert De Niro), who desperately wants counseling, even though he himself won't even admit to having anxiety attacks. Ben tries to help Paul, mostly so he will get him off his back, but the plot gets more complicated when Paul follows Ben to his wedding, which ends with a man dropping eight stories to his death. It seems to Ben that no matter what he does, Paul Vitti will not go away, and the more they become involved, the more Ben's potentially happy life gets into danger.
"Analyze This" has a few laughs sprinkled throughout (mostly in the first half), but I always had the nagging thought that what director Ramis and writers Peter Tolan, Ramis, and Kenneth Lonergan had done was thought of one joke (Robert De Niro lightly spoofing his serious past mafia roles, while terrorizing and becoming buddies with comic Billy Crystal) and then tiresomely recycled it for the duration of the 106-minute running time. Admittedly, De Niro is very funny here (and I can't remember the last time you could use that adjective to describe him), and Crystal is in top-form, but the whole movie is weighed down directly on their shoulders with nothing else to support them, including a substantial plotline.
Since "Analyze This" bills not one, not two, but three writers, you'd think that they would have been able to work together to fix the noticably large flaws, but they must have all been on auto-pilot. One of the most disappointing and wasted opportunities in the film is the way the movie deals with the supporting characters, all of which have next to nothing to do and aren't even given multi-dimensional characters to attempt to develop. Coming off of her Oscar-caliber work in two of last year's best films, "Clockwatchers" and "The Opposite of Sex," Lisa Kudrow's throwaway "girlfriend" role is an incredible step down. Sure, Kudrow's fellow "Friend" Jennifer Aniston did the same thing two weeks ago in "Office Space," but at least we got to spend a little time with Aniston. Kudrow, meanwhile, mostly just stands around, no doubt wondering why she agreed to appear in this film in the first place. Chazz Palminteri, as rival gangster Primo, fares even worse, in a role that plays more like an afterthought than an actual character. Finally, Molly Shannon (rising film star and cast member on "Saturday Night Live") has a rousingly hilarious one-scene cameo right at the beginning as one of Crystal's patients and then completely disappears. Too bad, considering that the supporting actors surely have proven that they have the abilities to support De Niro and Crystal.
Once "Analyze This" approached its second wedding scene leaving Kudrow's Laura standing alone at the altar once again, I had become thoroughly annoyed by where the story had gone, and had mostly lost respect for the character we were supposed to sympathize with the most, Ben. Afterwards, the climactic scene with Ben posing as a fellow mob boss in place of the depressed Paul, became a real laugh-free dead-zone, losing its last remaining comic punches. "Analyze This" proves that talent can certainly help any film out, but when the written material isn't up to their level, what we are virtually left with is a vacuum of thin air.
©1999 by Dustin Putman