Back in therapy.
A weak sequel to its hilarious predecessor, Analyze That boasts little of the comic zest of Analyze This but still manages a few laughs as it limps through a confused and misdirected story. The competent technical presentation on DVD is marred by the usual snapper case and an excessive price point.
Facts of the Case
Imprisoned mob boss Paul Vitti (Robert De Niro) finds that prison is not a very healthy environment, especially when someone has him marked for assassination. His only means of escape is to fake insanity in order to convince the authorities to release him into the custody of his former therapist, Dr. Benjamin Sobel (Billy Crystal). Naturally, Mrs. Sobel (Lisa Kudrow) is unhappy, but then again so is Dr. Sobel, whose personal and professional lives are in turmoil following his father's death.
With Paul Vitti now on the outside, he faces the difficult task of readjusting to life as a solid citizen. With armies of suspicious federal agents crawling about and watching Vitti's every move, even Dr. Sobel wonders if his patient can finally "go straight" when stints as a car salesman ("Look at that trunk. You could fit three bodies in there!") and maitre'd ("Mr. Torre, I would take it as a personal favor if the Yankees go all the way this year.") do not go well. Sadly, Vitti seems destined to return to a life a crime and take sides in the brewing mob war between Lou "the Wrench" Rigazzi (Frank Gio) and Patti LoPresti (Cathy Moriarty). Or does Paul Vitti have something else in mind?
When Analyze This slipped into theaters about four years ago, the film was sailing in the wake of The Sopranos with its more comedic take on the cultural collision between mobster and therapist. By playing Robert De Niro both with and against type and using the comedic brilliance of Billy Crystal to perfection, Analyze This became a modest success at the box office. Analyze This was good, it was funny, and yet again, Hollywood should have left it alone.
Naturally, the forces of nature could not be resisted, and so the memory of a decent film is put at risk by a sub-par sequel. In the words of Dean Martin (Back to School), it must have been a really big check.
As writer/director of Analyze That, Harold Ramis must shoulder the yeoman's share of the blame. In a phrase oft heard from the lips of actors and directors, Ramis says he didn't want to revisit Analyze This without the right script to take the story into new territory. Viewing the movie may not convince you, but after listening to the commentary, you may be inclined to credit Ramis for at least having good intentions and some good ideas to use as a base for Analyze That. Unfortunately, the final product demonstrates that somewhere along the way, somebody poisoned the cannoli.
Mind you, Analyze That is not bone-crushingly bad. No, Analyze That inspires such stirring words as mediocre, lukewarm, and bland. Analyze That feels like someone took Analyze This and ran it through a copier several million times until the final product is a pale, blurry copy of the original. Perhaps three writers, five executive producers, an associate producer, two producers, and a co-producer, plus a director (and perhaps yet others), all with their fingers in the pie, had some factor in this?
The anamorphic video is again of impressive quality, with an extremely clean picture, solid and sharp, and no discernable digital artifacting. However, I again note that as with Analyze This, flesh tones occasionally take on an excessively red/purple tones, which makes me wonder if there is an intentional decision or simply a common flaw at work. The Dolby Digital 5.1 mix is competent, with sufficient clarity and depth, but (as with nearly everything else) not as impressive as its predecessor.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
None of the characters is as vibrant as they were in Analyze This. Paul Vitti has lost the menacing edge that balanced his humor and emotion. With Vitti a less than threatening figure in his life and threats from "the feds" far from impressive, the pressure is off Sobel, and so is the comedy. Sobel is at his comedic peak when fear and pressure force him to improvise. Here, his shtick falls nearly as flat as unleavened bread. Furthermore, Sobel's role as a therapist, so integral to the prior film, seems irrelevant to the plot once Vitti is released into his custody. Even Mrs. Sobel seems to be a shrill, weakly funny shadow of her former self, and Jelly (Joe Viterelli) has none of the sort of uneasily hilarious scenes he had in Analyze This. When the gag reel in the end credits is the humor highlight of a film, this is not a good sign.
Compounding the character weaknesses are the confused wanderings of the story. Is Analyze That going to be about Vitti adjusting to Sobel's world (the reverse of Analyze This), or a story about Vitti reconciling his desire to leave the family with the demands of survival amidst a mob war? Analyze That tries to be both, which is too much for a mere hour and a half film. The too-brief story arc about Vitti taking over a Sopranos-like show had great potential, but sadly this goes unfulfilled. If you want to see a well-executed story of a "mobster out of water" and his straight-laced companion, don't look here, go look over at My Blue Heaven.
Robert De Niro (Taxi Driver, Goodfellas, Meet the Parents) and Billy Crystal (The Princess Bride, City Slickers, Monsters Inc.) are still an inspired comic pair, but Analyze That is hardly the best vehicle for their abilities. Frankly, none of the holdovers here comes out smelling like a rose, including the ill-used Lisa Kudrow (Romy and Michele's High School Reunion, Friends) and Joe Viterelli (Mickey Blue Eyes, Shallow Hal). On the other hand, newcomers Cathy Moriarty (reunited with De Niro for only the second time since Raging Bull) and Anthony LaPaglia (Murder One, Trees Lounge) are a breath of fresh air to this tired sequel.
Extra content is modest, but not unexpected with a Warner disc. The brief featurette is the standard public relations, rosy interview and film clip splice fest and the "M.A.D.E. Game" a cute one-use quiz. The commentary track with writer/director Harold Ramis (Caddyshack, Groundhog Day, Bedazzled) is enlightening, at least as far as explaining the reasonable justification for various decisions and plot points that I found initially questionable, but not much light is shed on why Analyze That fell flat. The commentary could have used some moderation, or a second participant, as Ramis has a tendency to leave significant gaps of silence.
Worthy of only a qualified, lukewarm recommendation for rental, Analyze That is not going to have anyone crying on the floor in pain (intentionally, anyway). There are smiles and a few chuckles, so it's not a total loss. On the other hand, I cannot recommend a purchase of a weak film with only limited extra content for a relatively high price ($28 list). Wait until it hits the bargain bins, as it assuredly will.
Though guilty of minor price point gouging, Warner has released a competent disc. On the other hand, Analyze That is clearly guilty of defrauding the audience into expecting another chuckle-fest. Back to Sing-Sing for you!
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