Dir. Harold Ramis. US. 2002. 95mins.
Analyze That reunites the cast and creative talent of the hit 1999 comedy and, as with most sequels, the result is a half-measure. But while critics are apt to consider the glass half-empty, audiences are sure to find it half-full, although its $11m opening on 2,635 screens last weekend was well below the original's $18.4m from 2,518 in 1999. The only comedy with broad appeal on the market (with the exception of Adaptation), the film will do decent business. After all, Robert De Niro and Billy Crystal are a potent comic combination even when they are mugging and wincing their way through a flimsy script.
Analyze This was driven by the Odd Couple schtick of its two leads, Crystal's psychiatrist and De Niro's mobster, and the dramatic tension of a macho man seeking help from a nebbish. Yet there was truth in the plight of a mob boss suffering an anxiety attack. Released the same year as the first TV series of The Sopranos, another story about a mobster in therapy, the film resonated with our modern obsession with and suspicion of psychotherapy. This time around even the title makes no sense beyond its worth as a tit-for-tat response to the original.
Returning director Harold Ramis and his co-screenwriters Peter Steinfeld and Peter Tolan find a clever way into the story but are happy to let the schtick do all the work. Paul Vitti (De Niro) is in prison when an attempt on his life drives him to seek assistance from - who else' - his old friend, Dr. Sobel (Crystal). Sobel, interrupted during his father's funeral, takes his call but rings off to perform the eulogy. Fear and rejection, we are lead to believe, send Vitti off the deep end. Next he is singing cuts from West Side Story and drooling in a cup. Sobel, who has his own issues now, is dragooned by the FBI to investigate Vitti's mental health and then - in one of many nose-stretching plot points - he is authorised to be a temporary federal institution charged with Vitti's care.
Needless to say, the catatonia is a ruse for the mobster to get out of prison and track his would-be killers. But the terms of his release require him to stay at Sobel's home, to which he lays waste, picking up prostitutes and flashing at house guests.
Director Ramis lets De Niro overplay the mobster to the point of annoyance, straining the credibility of Crystal's role and indeed the therapeutic foundation of their relationship. Before the audience know it, De Niro has taken over the film. We see him struggle in the unfamiliar milieu of genuine employment - car salesman, maitre d', jeweller - until he collapses in a panic attack, complaining to Sobel: "They take taxes out of your pay cheque!" The line is good but not worth the screen-time required for the set-up.
By the time De Niro is employed as a consultant on a Sopranos-like television series, the film has forsaken any connection with its past life. A clear case of denial - but enough to satisfy those keen to attend the reunion.
Prod cos: Baltimore Spring Creek Pictures, Face/Tribeca
US dist: Warner Bros
Int'l sales: Village Roadshow
Exec prods: Billy Crystal, Barry Levinson, Chris Brigham, Len Amato, Bruce Berman
Prods: Paula Weinstein, Jane Rosenthal
Scr: Peter Steinfeld, Ramis, Peter Tolan
Cinematography: Ellen Kuras
Prod des: Wynn Thomas
Ed: Andrew Mondshein
Music: David Holmes
Main cast: Robert De Niro, Billy Crystal, Lisa Kudrow, Joe Viterelli, Anthony LaPaglia, Cathy Moriarty