Analyze That Review
As sure as night follows day a certified Hollywood success will be followed by a sequel, and those studio bosses do love a successful comedy, they have all the potential of box office takings to rival the action blockbusters with a far smaller outlay. Here director Harold Ramis has reunited the cast of the 1999 hit Analyze This to try and reproduce the box office magic, but has he managed to avoid the trappings of by the numbers sequels to produce something original, rather than reproduction?
Dr. Ben Sobel (Billy Crystal) is at a crossroads, his father has just died, bringing his lifelong love-hate relationship with him to the boil, and left him questioning his place in the world. If he had enough objectivity to psychoanalyze himself he’d be able to see he’s one hell of a mess. Paul Vitti (Robert DeNiro) didn’t manage to beat the rap he was facing the last time we saw him, and is now enjoying the pleasant surroundings of Sing Sing maximum security prison. Despite being treated with the respect a mob boss deserves, and instilling fear into his fellow prisoners, Vitti is having a few problems – it seems someone wants him dead. His only hope of survival is to get out of prison, to get somewhere he can be protected, and the only way he’s getting out is if the authorities believe he’s gone crazy. Which is where Dr. Sobel comes into things. Still grieving the loss of his father, Ben is convinced to take Vitti back into his care, and into his home, where he can be properly looked after, but as soon as he’s out of the gates Vitti reverts back to his old self, with one slight difference, Vitti wants to go straight. The gangster life has taken its toll, and between the prison and the attempted hits Paul has had enough of life in the mob, but can a guy who’s been in a gang since he was 12 years old really ever do anything else?
I’ll start by saying I really enjoyed the original film, probably more than it deserved to be enjoyed. I think I’m a bigger fan of DeNiro as a comedian than most, so maybe that’s why I found Analyze That such a disappointment. It starts promisingly enough, Billy Crystal’s behaviour at his father’s funeral kicking things of nicely in the style of the original, and Robert DeNiro trying to convince the prison guards he’s gone crazy by singing West Life Story tunes non stop getting a few decent laughs, but after coming out of the blocks strong it really falters early on. Not only are the jokes simple rehashes of the gangster clichés but there is a real lack of comic timing, this is illustrated well early on when Sobel thinks a hit is being carried out on Vitti. It’s a simple set up, a noise outside, a sudden breaking window, naturally you’d assume this was a gunshot as Crystal yells “get down”, at least you would if Ramis hadn’t shown us that the source of the noise was Vitti’s associate Jelly throwing a stone at the window, leaving you neither surprised nor amused.
Things go further downhill as Vitti lands the first job he manages to keep hold of for more than a day, as an advisor on the TV show Little Caesar, a Soprano’s-A-Like story of a crime lord. Back during the release of the original film there was some name calling as both Analyze This and The Sopranos claimed they had thought of their mob-boss-sees-shrink storyline first, and both assured us their scripts had been flying around executives offices the longer. It seems Ramis and his co-writers have a little resentment stored up as their depiction of the goings on behind the scenes of Little Caesar is a less than favourable one. The stars aren’t Italian, the director is an incompetent pompus ex-theatre director with no control over his set and a tendency to abuse his staff and Ramis takes every opportunity to point out how unrealistic the script is for The Sopranos. Oops, I mean Little Caesar, obviously. It certainly feels more like personal axe grinding rather than a friendly ribbing, and fails to raise the briefest of smiles, the same goes for all the will-he-won’t-he actions of DeNiro trying to stay on the straight and narrow, and the less said about the convoluted attempts to double-bluff the audience over who it is that wants Vitti dead the better.
9/11 seems to have made filmmakers re-evaluate how they shoot New York, and in one of the few really positive aspects of the film, Ramis takes every opportunity to show the city in a different light, with the five famous bridges used as an iconic image of New York rather than its now scarred skyline. It may be a decision made out of over-sensitivity rather than a want for originality but you can’t argue with the results. That’s not the only up-side to the film, there are a few one-liners that hit their targets, and even an occasional line that will have audiences roaring with laughter, but these are too few and far between and the longer the film goes on the more you feel like you’re tolerating it rather than enjoying, or even simply watching, it. Even the end credit outtakes feel forced, in fact someone I watched the film with accused them of being scripted, and when a film can’t even get its amusing credits sequence right, you wonder how they convinced anyone to finance it. Oh, that’s right, it’s a cash in sequel.
Warner rarely take a miss-step with their transfers and this is no exception, with the picture being free from dirt and artefacts and well compressed. The colours are a little muted and the picture isn’t the sharpest I’ve seen but this is far more likely to be the fault of the film stock used rather than the transfer.
Comedies aren’t known for their outlandish soundtracks but the presentation here feels positively anaemic, surrounds and LFE are ignored and even such novelties as stereo steering seem out of the question with the soundtrack rarely sounding like more than a mono mix.
Audio Commentary from Director/Co-Writer Harold Ramis
Ramis, who you’ll doubtlessly recognise from his voice alone as Ghostbusters Egon Spangler, here provides one of the driest commentaries I can remember listening too. Every sentence begins with either ‘this is’ or ‘that is’ as he proceeds to describe everything he’s seeing on screen in mind numbing detail, this practice is occasionally interrupted by an anecdote approaching the amusing, but more often by total silence. It’ll take mere minutes for your eyelids to begin drooping.
The Making of Analyze That
Once again we’ve been treated to another movie infomercial by Warner Brothers, everyone’s a genius, they’re all hilarious, they’re the best people they’ve ever worked with etc. etc. I have my suspicions that these are now being created with simple CGI, changing their costumes from the last one they did, in fact being a sequel maybe all they did was add the word ‘again’ into a few sentences. “It was great working with Robert DeNiro. Again.”
No surprises here, it’s the trailer from the cinemas, complete with all the jokes from the film that were actually funny. How long can it be before studios just start producing trailers and not bothering with the films at all, simply charging people to watch 2 hours of trailers. All the hilarity, none of the expense.
Sadly the film was a disappointment, Ramis states in the ‘making of’ that he didn’t want to come back unless they could think of a really good story for the characters, the mind boggles at the thought of the quality scripts he must have rejected to settle on this. The disc fares little better, with only basic features that simply aren’t worthy of your time. Luckily the box office was slighter than expected on this sequel, so Analyze What? is looking unlikely.
This film is also available as part of a double-pack with Analyze This