Analyze That

A flushing sound? That'll be Billy Crystal's career.

Released in 2002, certified UK-15. Reviewed on 02 Mar 2003 by Craig Eastman
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Robert DeNiro is a very, very fine actor, and Billy Crystal is, well, sometimes a very funny man. When the pair teamed up for 1999's Analyze This, much praise was heaped on the duo's comic chemistry and the resultant picture was a delight to watch. Crystal played Ben Sobol, a psychiatrist who has a chance encounter with mob boss Don Paul Vitti, played by DeNiro. Before you can say "Freud was a loon", Sobol finds Vitti on his couch, pouring out his heart over all manner of problems, most notably an inability to perform in bed and the unfortunate loss of his ability to kill anyone.

Sobol becomes increasingly alarmed by his new client's behaviour, as DeNiro insists on taking up all of Sobol's time, gradually invading his home life and ultimately interfering with his impending marriage to wife-to-be Laura (Lisa Kudrow). Much hilarity ensued as Crystal attempted to put Vitti's life back in order and keep his own increasingly strained relationships under check. The film was a hit in the states, and so naturally some studio executive lodged the idea of a sequel at the back of his mind. Three years later, and here it is in the form of Analyze That, a marginally more inventive title than, say, Analyze This 2, but unfortunately a movie that fails to live up to the standards of it's predecessor.

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To be honest, there's nothing really wrong with the film as such, it's just that there's none of the freshness and clever banter that permeated the initial installment so successfully. Analyze That opens with Vitti still in incarceration, fearing for his life after a series of assassination attempts by various guards and inmates. Yes, somebody has it in for The Don, and it's clear that with his luck rapidly diminishing he has to do something drastic to get out. Cue DeNiro breaking into unprompted renditions of various musical numbers from West Side Story and a rash of disturbing behaviour that has the feds calling in none other than Ben Sobol to assess the situation. Unsurprisingly, Vitti is let out on the condition he is taken as Sobol's charge, and don't you just know it; The Don immediately lapses back into his mob ways with hilarious consequences!

Taking a job supervising the authenticity of popular TV mafia show "Little Ceaser", Vitti attempts to use his old connections to find out who's trying to 'whack' him, whilst simultaneously, and here's the surprising bit...making Sobol's home life a complete misery! Yes, unfortunately it's pretty much a re-tread of the first film, but given all the good gags were pretty much used up then, the cast here resort more to slapstick and vocal hyperbole. That's not to say it doesn't prove funny, mind you, and there's a certain amount of chuckles to be had watching Robert DeNiro yelling and shouting whilst making over-the-top masturbation gestures. The problem is that the reason it's amusing is because it is DeNiro, and not really because it's all that funny. Or clever.

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It doesn't take long for the gags to wear thin, and I for one found myself almost regretting having turned up. Having seen the first movie only serves to highlight how lacklustre this effort really is. There is very little set-up here, and for the most part the characters feel like they have very little direction or purpose, almost as if they'd turned up for a by-the-numbers sequel, you might say. DeNiro makes more of a terribly limited role than the script actually deserves, and at times Crystal has an almost sick desperation in his eyes as though he can never put aside the knowledge he's doing this one for the pay cheque. He's probably still sore that nobody lets him host the Oscars any more. In addition, it's almost pointless for Kudrow to have returned to her role as Laura, as frankly she has bugger all to do throughout the whole film.

It's sad to see DeNiro selling out to such nonsense, especially just when you thought City By The Sea was a return to form. One can only assume the leads agreed to return because they had such an obviously hilarious time making the first movie. Here, the only time they seem to be having any kind of fun is during the outtakes that roll over the credits. Not so much a shameful waste of talent as a completely unnecessary outing for everyone concerned.

Disko has seen fit to award this movie 2 out of 5 Happy Units.

Harold Ramis
Cast list:
Robert DeNiro (Don Paul Vitti)
Billy Crystal (Ben Sobol)
Lisa Kudrow (Laura Sobol)