Analyze This Review

A mere coincidence that Analyze This and The Sopranos came out at the same time, Harold Ramis’ final feature of the 20th century sees a mobster meet a psychiatrist after a bout of anxiety and self-doubt about his role in the family business. The Sopranos may feature something similar (without Ramis’ involvement), but the tones and stylings of either piece could not be any different. Worked-up hostilities in the private lives of these two leading men, Analyze This hopes comedy will blossom from the sessions audiences sit in on, but it never comes clearer than when Robert De Niro and Billy Crystal are separated from one another. 

Despite their flair and chemistry together, the story develops far better and with less farce when the two are distanced. When the two worlds of mob life and professional jealousy converge, the result is a messy story with nice intentions. Anyone can be hit down by anxiety attacks, even those at the head of crime families across the country. “Do I look like a guy who panics?” Paul Vitti (De Niro) asks of his doctor. He insists he had a heart attack, and violence inevitably ensues. What Analyze This does not do, however, is take the profession all that seriously. Therapists are feckless, self-indulgent and arrogant, and their patients are no better. Ramis gets much of his comedy from here, depicting the “what if” scenarios of how Dr. Ben Sobel (Crystal) wishes to speak to his patients, and what he actually says. 

Crystal does most of the heavy lifting. The oddball patients mixed with the advice he himself fails to follow is quite nice. His first encounter with Vitti shows the surprising complexities between Crystal and De Niro’s performances. Vitti is still serious at heart, and while Crystal is stricken with fear, there is still room for comedy. Whether it be audible cues from props or slick one-liners from supporting characters, the underlying notes of light but severe comedy come naturally to this leading pair. With Lisa Kudrow waiting in the wings to dive in and steal the show from time to time, Ramis has enough here to work with and crafts an amiable comedy with big names attached to it. These big names do well with one another, and a few of the recurring gags make for trivial but enjoyable moments. 

Sometimes a light bit of nothing is necessary. It gives the mind a break from a long day, yet vaguely entertains for a few hours. Analyze This is just that. Light, breezy and a little boring at times. It is a stringing together of scenes that vaguely piece together. De Niro has some great dialogue, Crystal does too. But for every spark of joy between them, there are four flubs or dips in quality. They usually come when the subplots need to be prepared and explained. Ramis knows that the real meat of this story comes from the emotionally overbearing connection between Vitti and Sobel, so it is at least reassuring to see Analyze This not only acknowledge that, but play around with it so well. Should we feel uncomfortable for laughing at the tears of a gangster? Ramis has some depth to that thought but never gives an answer. That is up to us.  

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