Kevin OReilly has reviewed the theatrical release of Analyze That, a sequel to 1999’s gangster comedy Analyze This, with Robert De Niro and Billy Crystal reprising their roles.
We have a year of sequels ahead of us, about two dozen in total, the largest number since the late eighties. With Star Trek: Nemesis, Final Destination 2 and Analyze That, the year hasn’t got off to a good start. By far the worst of the three, Analyze That is a lesson in how not to make a sequel. Take a film whose success was based on a clever, one-off idea which doesn’t easily lend itself to a follow-up, fail to come up with any kind of a twist, fail even to provide a passable retread and then slap a cynical title on it which reeks of contempt for your audience. The result belongs in the sequels hall of shame beside Caddyshack II, Look Who’s Talking Too and Arthur 2: On The Rocks. It’s a waste of space.
Analyze This wasn’t a great film but it did have a clever idea (Mafia boss goes into therapy), it was perfectly cast with Goodfellas star Robert De Niro as mobster Paul Vitti and Billy Crystal as shrink Ben Sobel and it was funny enough. If you were looking for a mob comedy, you got your money’s worth. Released in 1999, it made $100 million in America and coincidentally the same concept inspired the hit TV show The Sopranos which premiered the same year.
I have no idea whether Analyze That was made for the money or because the cast and crew had so much fun making the first that they wanted a reunion. Everybody does seem to be having a great time in the out-takes during the end credits, although they’re no funnier than the rest of this mess. The problem isn’t the film-makers’ motives. Good films have been made for the most mercenary reasons. What’s unforgivable is the lack of thought and effort that’s gone into making this. Not only are there hardly any laughs but there isn’t even a plot. This is one of the worst structured films I’ve ever seen. It keeps setting up ideas for storylines and then discarding them, introducing characters and then forgetting about them.
As the film opens, Paul has gone cuckoo in prison and is being kept in solitary confinement, where he does nothing but belt out songs from West Side Story. Of course it’s just a ruse to get him out on parole and he’s released into the custody of his former shrink Ben, whose wife (Lisa Kudrow) is appalled to be living with a gangster. Not a bad concept for a film – suburban family share home with gangster – but after an amusing scene with a hooker, the movie has soon forgotten that Paul is supposed to be staying there and that Kudrow is even in the film. Next Paul tries to get a straight job as part of his parole and ends up as a consultant on a crap mafia TV show. Another fine idea and again the opportunity for humour is completely squandered to make room for a lot of dull scenes where the FBI and rival gang bosses conspire against Paul. It all ends with a big heist which somehow ties everything up.
The worst mistake Analyze That makes is not giving De Niro and Crystal enough time on screen together. Their chemistry was what made the first film work and it’s still there. The sequel threatens to become funny whenever they share a scene but these scenes are few and far between. Instead we get Ben being harassed by the Feds, Paul being threatened by the mob, Ben being threatened by the mob, Paul setting up the rival gangsters. Nobody really cares about this stuff, so why is it allowed to dominate the film? This is not The Godfather, it’s a comedy and we came to laugh at De Niro and Crystal. Far too many movies today get bogged down in silly, complex plots and forget why the audience is there. I Spy gave us car chases instead of Eddie Murphy being funny. The Tuxedo gave us a load of nonsense about insects rather than Jackie Chan fighting people. Why?
Billy Crystal does his best but he’s given little to work with, while Robert De Niro’s performance consists largely of saying the F-word a lot. De Niro has taken a lot of heat in the entertainment press for his film choices lately. Clearly he’s decided to concentrate on comedy, which is his decision and he’s a fine comedian, as Analyze This and Meet The Parents prove, but can’t he find better material than Analyze That and Rocky & Bullwinkle? The rest of the cast also flounder. Joe Viterelli, so funny as the bodyguard in the first film, is completely wasted here, as is Cathy Moriarty as a gang boss. The participant who should be most embarassed is director Harold Ramis, who has made some of the funniest films of the last 25 years, among them Caddyshack, National Lampoon’s Vacation and Groundhog Day. He shouldn’t be wasting his talents on garbage like this.
It’s the end, but the moment has been prepared for…
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