Analyze This Review
By Joe Lozito
Robert De Niro playing a mobster again? You must be joking! Well, in fact, this time he is. Not since "Midnight Run" has Mr. De Niro been afforded such a perfect opportunity to flex his comedic muscles. Here he plays Paul Vitti, a wiseguy with deep personal issues. It seems that Paul has recently been having panic attacks - though don't call them that to his face. In order to find out why, he seeks out the help of a hapless psychiatrist (Billy Crystal, in his best role in years) who, before he knows it, is added to Paul's payroll. The film follows Mr. Crystal as he tries to get Mr. De Niro's character through his personal turmoil before a big meeting of all the nation's crime bosses.
Mr. De Niro and Mr. Crystal, who of late has been relegated to flash-in-the-pan one joke comedies, are clearly having a great time in their many scenes together, each of which skewers a different mobster cliche. Mr. De Niro's performance in this film is of course also an in-joke to his many years playing - or some might say "defining" - this type of role. There are several winks to the audience, perhaps the best being a dream sequence in which Mr. De Niro plays the character of Freddo in "The Godfather" ("I was Freddo?" he asks, "I don't think so.")
The weakest link in the film is a subplot involving Mr. Crystal's impending wedding to his fiance (Lisa Kudrow, grossly underused as the most wishy-washy female character to appear on screen in a long time) which drags the film down one too many times. So tacked on is the wedding disaster plot that it is never made clear how these two characters met, especially considering that she lives in Florida and he lives in New York and their families have never met.
It is interesting to watch this film in comparison with "The Sopranos," HBO's original series which takes the same premise from a more serious standpoint. The fact that both this film and the series are so successful speaks to the quality of the premise but also to how ingrained these mobster types have become in our collective memories. Director Harold Ramis ("Groundhog Day"), proving once again that he knows how to do high-concept comedy, tries not to glamorize the profession too much. There are some surprisingly violent scenes in the film, but in the end "Analyze This" is still a comedy, and a fine one at that.