Mark Reviews Movies


1 ½ Stars (out of 4)

Director: Harold Ramis

Cast: Robert De Niro, Billy Crystal, Lisa Kudrow, Joe Viterelli, Anthony LaPagila, Cathy Moriarty-Gentile

MPAA Rating: R (for language and some sexual content)

Running Time: 1:35

Release Date: 12/6/02

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Review by Mark Dujsik

Yet another entry in the pointless and unsuccessful sequel to a movie that was fine on its own category, Analyze That really has nothing going for it except the memory and basic premise of the original. It reminds me of Men in Black II, another such sequel that was released this year, except that movie—equally pointless and unsuccessful—was truer to the premise and spirit of the original movie than Analyze That. Its predecessor Analyze This was very funny but stood on its own, giving us a relatively complete story with no need for continuation. That’s probably why the script here is so particularly hackneyed. Pulling anything they can to assemble a carry-over, the screenplay by director Harold Ramis, Peter Tolan (who were two of the three screenwriters from the original), and Peter Steinfeld (replacing Kenneth Lonergan, the third from the first time around) is blatantly thrown together without any convincing elements that make this feel like a natural follow-up. And to top it all off, the comedy is equally forced.

Paul Vitti (Robert De Niro) is still where the first film left him—in prison. He’s having a hard time about it. You see, some mobsters are trying to kill him. He calls up his old friend Dr. Ben Sobel (Billy Crystal), but Sobel is too preoccupied with the death of his father and the funeral at which he receives Vitti’s phone call. So after one hit attempt comes too close, Vitti suddenly seems to break down in the cafeteria, bursting into the libretto of West Side Story (that the movie hints at a De Niro rendition of “Gee, Officer Krupke” but fails to deliver is one of the first of many disappointments to come). He won’t come out of out, the guards tell Sobel, who arrives to diagnose his old patient. After an examination, Sobel is convinced Vitti is legitimately mentally unbalanced, which he relates to the FBI. Now, here comes the really clever, completely logical setup of the movie. The feds tell Sobel that Vitti will be released into his care and live in his house, which will become a recognized institution. Yes, I was being sarcastic.

The movie never gets past this sitcom level of setup. I think my eyes would have rolled more only if Crystal had said something like, “I’m going to have to let a mobster live in my house? Oh, no!”  He might as well have said something to that extent, as the script makes no subtleties in trying to set this scenario up. Now, the movie could have worked had the screenplay focused on the home life, despite a tired setup. Instead, the movie just goes from one gag to another without anything to connect them. Vitti has to find a regular, working class job. So of course, all his mobster tendencies show through, like when he tells a couple looking to buy a car that the trunk can hold three bodies or when he stuffs bread into the mouth of a customer (a fellow gangster too) who he thinks disrespected him. And then there’s the real killer when Vitti is asked to be a consultant on a television show. Old jokes abound in this scenario, capsulated by a director character whose existence is, to put it nicely, annoying. The first film focused on the relationship between Vitti and Sobel and pulled its humor primarily from it. This one is all over the place.

Another part of the failure of the comedy is that the timing is off. It’s a result of the editing, in which there seems to be a lot of subtle continuity problems. The whole thing seems off. It’s also in the central relationship, which, beyond being shipped to the background, is now missing the comedic balance present in the original. The problem is Sobel is now equally troubled (the “I’m grieving—it’s a process” joke wears itself thin the second time around), which doesn’t switch the roles around (in other words, Vitti doesn’t become Sobel’s counselor) but merely separates the characters in their own shtick. There’s no connection between these two anymore. Part of the fun of watching Analyze This was seeing Robert De Niro play on his established screen persona, but that’s pretty much absent here as well. Instead, his character is reduced to being plugged into each scenario of the screenplay, eliminating true comedy and replacing it with weak farce. Billy Crystal doesn’t fare much better, although his screentime and role in the movie are greatly reduced compared to what they should be. Joe Viterelli, who stole so many scenes in the original movie, returns as Jelly, but he’s also unfortunately wasted.

I don’t understand the mindset that churns out a sequel like Analyze That. Money is probably the biggest factor, obviously, but why abandon everything that worked before? Sure, make a sequel, but at least do one of these two things: give us something new while still maintaining the essential and successful elements of the original or stick to what worked before and expand upon it. The movie has one honest moment: at the end of the outtakes during the credits, someone (I’m guessing Ramis) says, “We sure beat that to death.”  There are two ways to interpret that statement: 1.) It’s a piece of great, unintended self-criticism; or 2.) there won’t be another sequel because the filmmakers realize they’re out of ideas. Either way is fine by me.

Copyright © 2002 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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