Analyze This Review

1999’s Analyze This was a film burdened by bad timing. Its tale of a gangster who experiences panic attacks and has to go to a psychiatrist has obvious parallels with David Chase’s HBO series The Sopranos, which was attracting overwhelming critical acclaim at the time of its release. Of course, there is little than resonates elsewhere, though this coincidence still makes it difficult to watch Analyze This without the comparison coming to mind. It’s also intriguing to consider that whilst The Sopranos was reinventing the portrayal of the mafia on the small screen, cinema audiences were instead offered more comical takes on the subject, amongst them Jane Austen’s Mafia!, Mickey Blue Eyes and Jim Jarmusch’s Ghost Dog : The Way of the Samurai.

Mickey Blue Eyes is the closest companion that Analyze This has of these films, being a film which similarly embroils an outsider into the various gangster going-ons and features an ex-Godfather star as its lead Mafioso. The notable departure here is that rather than Mickey Blue Eyes’ Hugh Grant and Jeanne Tripplehorn backing up James Caan, Analyze This offers some genuine comic talent in the form of Billy Crystal (who also serves as producer) and Friends actress Lisa Kudrow to accompany Robert De Niro. What this allows is for the comic and dramatic elements to complement each other in a far more successful manner; Crystal has the experience of numerous occasions as host of the Academy Awards to allow him to stand up to the bigger names, whereas De Niro proves surprisingly adept in a less serious role. Undoubtedly, the experience of We’re No Angels and Midnight Run must account for something, films which similarly offer up mismatched comedy pairings (admittedly, to a much lesser extent in the form), as well as, of course, the plentiful roles in various gangster movies.

That said, the comic element is somewhat hit-and-miss, lurching from sharp one liners and a wonderful parody of Marlon Brando’s assassination attempt in The Godfather (followed by a great line from De Niro: “I was Fredo? I don’t think so.”) to more farcical humour as Crystal and Kudrow’s wedding attempts are constantly ruined by Mafia-related interruptions or when Crystal gets thrown into a shark tank. This latter example points up one of the film’s biggest failings in as far as there never appears to be a genuine threat despite the subject matter. Certainly, there is a plethora of foul language, shoot-outs and deaths, yet there is also an air of Hollywood schmaltz to the proceedings which seems to neutralize any danger. To reference The Sopranos again, it’s worth noting that that series has been capable of numerous instances of humour over its series’, yet remains firmly grounded in reality.

Analyze This does offer the occasional attempt at creating a palpable reality, from De Niro’s opening voice-over recalling his similar duties on Casino to the supporting cast being populated by genuine Italian-Americans, many of whom have appeared in at least one gangster film during their career (often with De Niro), though never seems to do so with any great conviction. Indeed, it is likely to be the result of the number of writers who worked on the film that has created his lack of balance. Kenneth Lonergan, who wrote the initial draft, is a respected playwright who has the wonderful You Can Count on Me to his name, as well as similar co-writer credits for The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle and Gangs of New York, and one feels that the attempts at a genuine sense of place originate from his contribution. Following his drafts, however, Peter Tolan was brought in and his influence is certainly notable from the sitcom edges apparent (having worked on, amongst others, Home Improvement and The Larry Sanders Show), and after his contribution, Harold Ramis finished off the script, including re-writes during the shoot.

Despite the obvious presence of the first two writers, it is Harold Ramis’ contribution which seems more apparent. Of course, having also directed the picture, this is understandable, and the experience of having exclusively directed comedies (amongst them Caddyshack and the much loved Groundhog Day) during his career certainly shapes Analyze This into a watchable entertainment, though is never quite capable of ironing out its inconsistencies. Indeed, one wonders what would have become of the film had the more skilled Martin Scorsese not turned it down; perhaps it could been in the same league as The Sopranos rather than a footnote in its history?

The Disc

Surprisingly, given how recent the film is, Analyze This doesn’t look that great on DVD. Grain is highly noticeable in the opening scene, and there is very little depth to the image, especially during the night scenes or in dark interiors. Whilst it remains undoubtedly watchable throughout, there is still room for improvement. (The disc also offers the choice between the original 1.85:1 aspect ratio and pan and scan 4:3, though of course, the former is preferable, and both suffer the same flaws.)

The DD5.1 mix offers no such problems, remaining clean throughout and never letting the numerous Italian-American crooners on the score overwhelm the dialogue.

The extras, however, are a disappointment. Limited to a commentary by the two stars and a little under five minutes of outtakes, neither bears repeat viewings. The commentary in particular is a frustrating experience. Whilst the prospect of Robert De Niro contributing such a track may at first seem mouth-watering, he in fact speaks very rarely, despite the constant urges from fellow speaker Billy Crystal. Crystal does have a lot to say, due in part to his capacity as one of the film’s producers, though his frustration at De Niro is also apparent, and one suspects that the commentary would benefit from him being the sole speaker. As for the outtakes, there is little here to distinguish them from those present on the Meet the Parents DVD, consisting as they do primarily of De Niro laughing during takes.

This disc is also available as part of a double-pack with Analyze That.

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