Been There, Done ‘That’
|Starring:||Robert De Niro, Billy Crystal|
As much as I hate to admit it, I was never a big fan of “Analyze This.” Maybe I was in a bad mood the day I saw it, but I just remember thinking that it was a lame screwball comedy. If there was anything that made it worthwhile, it was the irresistible chemistry between co-stars Robert De Niro and Billy Crystal, as well as the chance to see the usually intense De Niro lighten up and make fun of himself for a change.
A lot of people must have liked it if it made more than $106 million at the box office, so a sequel was inevitable. I guess I was in a good mood the day I saw it, because I actually enjoyed “Analyze That” more than I thought I was going to. Once again, De Niro and Crystal seem to be having a blast, and though the film is merely a rehash of the original (despite a promising setup that goes nowhere), it’s still charming and entertaining enough to pass for a fun time at the movies.
After suffering what appears to be a full mental breakdown, notorious mob boss Paul Vitti (Robert De Niro) is released from prison and into the reluctant care of his neurotic therapist Ben Sobel (Billy Crystal) for additional treatment. Almost immediately, Vitti reveals his intentions to find the not-so-goodfellas who tried to whack him, but in the meantime, he has to live with Sobel and his family while he seemingly tries to go straight. As to be expected, the more he tries to get out of “the business,” the more he keeps getting pulled back in, but unfortunately, he brings Dr. Sobel with him whether he wants to or not.
Though De Niro has dabbled in comedy before–in 1983’s underrated “The King of Comedy” and 1987’s sharp “Midnight Run“–it wasn’t until 1999’s “Analyze This” that he really embraced his inner funny bone and re-invented himself as a comedic actor. Of course, it wasn’t always for the best (think “Showtime” and “The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle“), but at least he hit paydirt in 2000 with the $166 million-grossing “Meet the Parents.”
In “Analyze That,” De Niro really takes the kid gloves off with some scenes that are either the funniest of his career…or the most embarrassing, depending on how you look at them. The movie starts out with him singing–yes, singing–parts of “West Side Story” at the top of his lungs, and once you hear it, you’ll know why they kicked him out of prison. De Niro once again seems to relish poking fun at his tough guy image, and though it ultimately feels like a case of “been there, done that,” it’s still pretty funny.
Not long after “This” came out, a little TV show called “The Sopranos” debuted on HBO. The similarities between the two were obvious (an unstable mob boss seeks the help of a shrink), but once the violent show really took off, that’s where it ended. In “That,” one of De Niro’s attempts to go legit involves becoming a consultant for a “Sopranos“-like TV show called “Little Caesar,” whose lead character is played by Anthony LaPaglia. Call it irony, or call it inspired casting, but back in the day, LaPaglia was originally tapped to play–you guessed it–Tony Soprano!
As for the rest of the cast, Billy Crystal does his usual routine and gets off some of his trademark one-liners, while Lisa Kudrow (who actually has a small role) once again channels Phoebe from “Friends” for a few good digs. Actually, the funniest character in the film is played by Reg Rogers, who portrays the producer of the TV-show-within-the-movie with just the right touch of exaggerated, phony self-absorption.
As with every year, the holiday shopping season can get a little crazy, so take a load off, see “Analyze That,” and you’ll be laughing faster than you can say “bada-bing!” Well, maybe not that fast, but at least it’ll put you in a good mood.