** (out of 5)
December 6, 2002
Robert DeNiro as PAUL VITTI
Billy Crystal as DR. BEN SOBOL
Lisa Kudrow as LAURA MACNAMARA SOBOL
Joe Viterelli as JELLY
Directed by: Harold Ramis
BY KEVIN CARR
Sequels come in many forms. Some, like “Aliens” and “The Empire Strikes Back,” are excellent movies that stand solidly on their own as well as giving the original a run for its money. Others are shaky as stand-alone films but are commendable follow-ups to the original (such as “Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me” and “American Pie 2”). Then, there are sequels that are just weak – not only as their own films but also a second installment. Unfortunately, “Analyze That” falls in this last category.
“Analyze That” begins two years after the events of “Analyze This.” Mobster Paul Vitti (Robert DeNiro) is stuck in prison while Dr. Ben Sobol (Billy Crystal) is dealing with the very recent death of his father. Finding himself the target of a mob hit inside the prison, Vitti tries to contact Sobol for help and his calls are ignored. One day, Vitti apparently has a breakdown and flip flops between a catatonic state and singing show tunes from “West Side Story” – a gag that is done to death in the film.
Sobol is brought in to do a full analysis, and eventually Vitti is released under his supervision – much to the chagrin of Sobol’s young wife Laura (Lisa Kudrow). Vitti rejoins with his Mafia cohorts once on the outside, trying to discover who is trying to kill him.
“Analyze That” suffers from what many sequels do – a weak story. In “Analyze This,” there was a clear conflict to overcome as Paul Vitti comes to terms with his emotions and realizes that he needs to leave his life of crime.
Even a screwball comedy like this one needs a good story. Even comedies- from “Blazing Saddles” to “There’s Something About Mary” – must have a clear conflict, dramatic action and characters you care about. All three are absent in “Analyze That.” By the end of the film, I really didn’t care who was trying to kill Paul Vitti or whether Dr. Sobol would ever be able to come to grips with his father’s death.
Vitti’s aloofness has reached a ridiculous level in this new film. While he was funny in the first one, now he does things that are just plain stupid. Sure, a Mafia kingpin isn’t going to know the ins and outs of polite suburban conversation, but even Paul Vitti should know why he shouldn’t run around in an open bathrobe during a funeral reception.
One scene that exemplifies the clunkiness of this film involves a montage of Vitti trying to work in a “normal” job. In the course of several days, he ends up as a berate Audi salesman, a maitre d’ at a swanky restaurant and a jewelry salesperson. The bit would be funny if it wasn’t so far fetched, but instead it falls flat because it is such an unrealistic turn of events.
Additionally, Chazz Palminteri played a solid villain in the original film. Unfortunately, Palminteri’s Primo Sidone is noticeably absent from the sequel, and he has been replaced with Lou “The Wrench” Rigazzi (Frank Gio), who only appears in only a handful of scenes as a throwaway character – even though he’s the one who is trying to kill Vitti. In fact, The Wrench is so expendable that the Warner Bros. doesn’t even list him as a main character or list the actor’s name in their press.
Lisa Kudrow is all but wasted in this film, only wandering into scenes to yell at Dr. Sobol. Even as the film wraps up, we never come back to tie up her story line, which is a shame. Kudrow has impeccable comic timing and can actually stretch in the right comedic role, but you would never know this from her appearance in this film. It’s startling that she receives third billing.
Too bad for Kudrow, the only “Friend” to do any impressive film work out of her television show. She had proved herself in the indie field with “The Opposite of Sex” and “Clockwatchers” and also showed she could do commercial films as well with “Romy and Michelle’s High School Reunion.” Alas, her lackluster performance in “Analyze That” is about as impressive as “Lucky Numbers.”
Sure, there are some funny moments, but much of the comedy seems forced – especially from Crystal, who should be a natural at this by now. His strongest joke – telling people that “grieving is a process” as he struggles to come to terms with the resentment of his father – wasn’t very funny the first time and is done to death even more than the “West Side Story” gags.
If you see the film, stay for at least part of the credits because there are outtakes, which is the funniest thing in the picture.
Although I’m not an avid “Sopranos” viewer, I did get quite a kick out of the movie-within-a-movie story line of the Soprano-esque television show “Little Caesar.” Reg Rodgers plays a hilarious theatre director who has brought in Vitti as a creative consultant in order to add authenticity to his hit television show. And Anthony LaPaglia does a scene-stealing performance as the dimwitted Aussie actor playing a Mafia crime boss. The other actor to watch in the film is the return of Joe Viterelli as henchman Jelly, who gets a meatier part and hams up his comedic side as well.
There was a time when Robert DeNiro played in more than just buddy movies. However, with the success of “Analyze This” and “Meet the Parents,” we are probably destined for many, many more versions of “Analyze That,” “Showtime” and “Flawless” before we see another performance at the caliber of “Good Fellas,” “Awakenings” or “Jackie Brown.”