By David Grove | December 5, 2002

There are so many sequels being made nowadays that sometimes it’s hard to remember what the sequel is a sequel to. Take Analyze This, which was a big surprise hit back in 1999, and yet, I wonder how many people remember it clearly. Now we get “Analyze That” and one of the problems with the film is that we didn’t necessarily ask for it.
In “Analyze That,” Robert De Niro’s mobster character, Paul Vitti, is even more paranoid and vulnerable than he was in “Analyze This” as he sits in prison, desperately fearing for his life as his fellow mobsters are worried that he’ll make a deal with the government and spill the beans, which is what he does more or less. Vitti’s older now and he doesn’t wield much influence anymore in the new high-tech world of crime.
The opening scenes of “Analyze That” are the best in the film, as De Niro breaks out into full nutcase mode, complete with song and dance, in order to trick the feds into believing that he’s totally insane. De Niro’s always been a skilled comedian and here, he seems to be spoofing real life mobsters like the legendary John Gotti who rotted away in prison and most notably, Vincent “The Chin” Gigante, who used to urinate on his own living room carpet and walk around his neighborhood in pajamas, all in an attempt to bolster his insanity defense. It works for De Niro too.
It’s here, early in “Analyze That,” that the film starts to shake and fall apart as the feds get so nervous about De Niro’s behavior that they summon his old shrink, Ben Sobel (Billy Crystal) to once again take custody of him, an even tougher chore for Crystal this time given that his father’s just passed away.
Crystal brings De Niro home, amid outraged yelps from his wife, Laura (Lisa Kudrow). The chaos begins as De Niro slyly plots to outwit everybody and regain his crime empire.
I’m sure that some people are going to have a problem with the fact that the feds would let De Niro just walk out of Sing-Sing and go home with his shrink, and that Crystal would go along with the plan, but not me. Comedy is comedy and if a film can get to a funny place, audiences are willing to pay almost any price in terms of story credibility. Maybe director and co-writer Harold Ramis felt like he needed the film to begin with De Niro out of prison. The problem I had with “Analyze That” is the question of De Niro’s insanity, or his sanity.
If De Niro was really insane throughout the whole film, it would’ve led to many interesting comic possibilities, namely in confusing all of the other characters, especially those who want to kill De Niro, into wondering just what he’s up to. Imagine if Paul Vitti really was a broken down old crime hermit who got up from the dinner table and urinated in the corner of the room, or the sight of De Niro walking around in dirty pajamas and slippers. Since De Niro’s an older man, maybe they could’ve spoofed Ray Liotta’s mea culpa in “Goodfellas.” How many people has Paul Vitti killed anyway? As it stands in the film, the main conflict of Crystal having to whip De Niro into good enough shape for him to get a job and face a parole board is kind of stale since Crystal seems way to smart and old to still be doing this stuff. What does he have to gain? Doesn’t he know that his marriage to Lisa Kudrow is in trouble? De Niro’s old “Raging Bull” co-star Cathy Moriarty shows up in a bit as a mob widow, but there’s nothing interesting done with her and De Niro.
The best thing about “Analyze That” is De Niro of course, who shows that he’s still a very gifted comedian. Unfortunately, he seems to have devoted his recent career to predictable genre films, mediocre fare like Showtime. Then again, De Niro makes so many films nowadays that a good film like The Score seems like it was made a decade ago, while a great De Niro comedy like Midnight Run seems like it made in the dark ages. For his part, Crystal looks kind of bored in this film: He has a thankless role without believable motivation.
As for the film itself, I was sporadically amused by what I saw, but I wanted more. Part of the problem with “Analyze That” is the domination and influence upon the crime genre of the hit TV show “The Sopranos” and the way that it’s revolutionized the mob action-comedy and raised the stakes in the genre to such a high level. It used to be that the main allure of features was that they could deliver what cable couldn’t, but now it’s the other way around and one of the biggest problems with “Analyze That” is that it doesn’t show us anything new or really funny, certainly nothing that we can’t get on HBO.

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