In a great opening scene, a huge black and white cow observes the procession of black Mafia cars winding up his hillside while a terrific 1950s voice-over sets the stage.

ANALYZE THIS

A Illusion review by Joan Ellis.


A story about a shrink and a mobster elicits a smile. Analyze This capitalizes on the wacky premise with two bullseye performances by Robert De Niro and Billy Crystal. That may be enough to carry you up and down the peaks and valleys of a movie that hasn't much else to sustain it.

In a great opening scene, a huge black and white cow observes the procession of black Mafia cars winding up his hillside while a terrific 1950s voice-over sets the stage. Times are changing for the mob, and Paul Vitti (Mr. De Niro) is a mob boss with a modern problem: panic attacks. He brings his problem to Dr. Ben Sobel (Billy Crystal), a psychiatrist who is about to solve his own problems by marrying TV reporter Laura MacNamara (Lisa Kudrow).

Mr. Vitti, accompanied always by a not so merry band of henchmen, demands and receives the on-call attention of his new therapist. The good side of all this is that Mr. De Niro's tortured suffering during his panic attacks is mostly funny. When the sight of a father and son triggers his large reservoir of weepy sentimentality, we laugh because this was a father whose end was just.

Billy Crystal, who can overplay his roles, especially when the laughs are thin, is admirably restrained in this one. Playing straight man to De Niro's tough guy, he's your ordinary, everyday therapist caught suddenly in the grips of a Don. When the two of them play off each other, the laughs are merry. But the filler material wears thin. The role of the therapist's bride is a mere plot contrivance that leaves Lisa Kudrow with little to do but respond with shrill protests. If it's not quite clear whether the fault lies more with the writer or the actress, it doesn't much matter.

Joe Viterelli, an enormous galomph of a man, plays "Jelly," protector and loyal bumblebrain to his boss. In a refreshingly non-cute performance, Kyle Sabihy is a no-nonsense son to Billy Crystal's shrink. Chazz Palminteri, who can lift any movie beyond what it deserves, is simply great as Primo Sindone, rival mob boss. He has the looks and presence to convey oily power along with a quaint quality of open-mindedness. Making perfect use of pause and expression, his Primo is both dumb and smart, and greatly appealing. When the rival families gather for a meeting, Mr. De Niro and Mr. Palminteri turn the potential bloodbath into a comically introspective consideration of the changing times.

Billy Crystal, as always, is a mosquito, stinging giants, and he's good at that. If anyone is put down here, it's therapists. With their insistence on applying the cliches of their trade earnestly to all situations, they look foolish in a slapstick comedy like this. There's a rare bit of undeniable pleasure in that. I like the image of a patient staring down into a therapist's face and commanding, "Be here when I need you."


Film Critic : JOAN ELLIS
Word Count : 509
Studio : Warner Bros.
Rating : R
Running time : 1h43m


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