What is my goal here? To make you a happy well-adjusted gangster?
Take a ruthless gangster, give him some emotional problems, and then send him to see a shrink. The comic premise of "Analyze This" is so disarmingly simple that you'll be asking yourself 'why didn't I think of that?' Writer/director Harold Ramis ("Groundhog Day" and "Ghostbusters") then does one better by casting Robert De Niro (last seen in "Ronin") as the gangster, a role that parodies his usual scenery-chewing bombast, and Billy Crystal ("My Giant" and "Deconstructing Harry") as the hapless and harried psychiatrist. The end result is a very funny, and occasionally hilarious, film chock full of great lines and comically absurd situations.
Paul Vitti (De Niro) is a New York mob boss that hasn't been feeling his usual belligerent self. It seems that the day-to-day stresses of being a big shot in the Mafia have taken a toll on Vitti's nerves. In addition to a number of disquieting panic attacks, he has been having difficulties 'getting it up' in bed, as well as breaking into tears whenever he sees an overly sentimental television commercial for mutual funds. Realizing that he will likely lose control of the organization if he can't maintain his tough exterior, Vitti does what comes naturally-- he sees a therapist.
When I got into family therapy, I wasn't expecting this kind of family.
As a result of an earlier automobile mishap with one of Vitti's hired goons (Joe Viterelli), Ben Sobol (Crystal) winds up being the unlucky psychiatrist who gets to treat New York's most infamous underworld personality-- one who won't take 'no' for an answer. At first Sobol is averse to treating such a notorious figure, but Vitti's powers of coercive persuasion quickly win the psychiatrist over. Pretty soon, Sobol ends up being on-call twenty-four hours a day to handle Vitti's problems, and he finds it difficult to juggle the demands of his newest patient with his upcoming wedding to a beautiful television reporter from Florida (Lisa Kudrow of "Clockwatchers" and "Romy & Michelle's High School Reunion").
I couldn't do it last night?
You mean sexually?
No, for the big game against Michigan State. Of course sexually!
Meanwhile, there are several other parties watching Vitti and Sobol's movements with great interest. Sindone (Chazz Palminteri) is Vitti's chief rival, and he will use any means at his disposal to become head of the organization, including an assassination attempt at an upcoming Mafia get-together. To further complicate matters, the FBI has caught on to Sobol's newest patient, and is threatening to indict Sobol on a series of charges unless he cooperates by wearing a wire. Of course, Vitti gets wise to the meddling of the FBI, and becomes convinced that Sobol must 'disappear' because he knows too much.
My wedding is ruined because you've got 'problems'!
"Analyze This" is a lot of fun, and definitely miles ahead of the other recent Mafia parody, "Mafia!". The pleasure in this film comes from the great chemistry between De Niro and Crystal, and the script plays up on each actor's typical on-screen personas-- it is difficult to image another pair of actors pulling it off as well. The script is also punctuated by a number of 'fish out of water' sequences that place these two diametrically opposed characters in unlikely situations, and boy are they a scream. While Vitti tries to use touchy-feely psychotherapeutic jargon amongst his usual repertoire of four-letter expletives, Crystal winds up having to vamp it up as a tough-talking goodfella to a room full of mob bosses. And while the underlying story relies on a few tired clichés and lucky coincidences (for example, both Vitti and Sobel's neuroses are the result of unresolved issues with their respective fathers), the deft and snappy execution of the material makes it easy enough to overlook any faults in the design.
You want me to clear your schedule for you?
Aside from the two leads, the cast is well rounded with a number of great supporting performances. Viterelli is terrific as Vitti's fiercely loyal but not so bright right hand man, and Palminteri delivers the pugnacious lout he played with gusto in "Hurlyburly". Unfortunately, Kudrow as Crystal's love interest is a wasted effort, with her character serving only to create additional complications for Crystal's character.
I wasn't really going to kill you.
Yes you were.
Yeah, you're right... but I was feelin' conflicted about it.
"Analyze This" is assuredly a crowd-pleasing effort with its brisk pacing, frequently funny situations, and top-notch comic performances. De Niro and Crystal outdo themselves in this effort, and De Niro's performance is reason enough to rush out to see this one. It may not be as elegantly crafted as "Shakespeare in Love", but it certainly achieves what it sets out to do-- have a good time.