Robert De Niro lightens up slightly as he takes the mickey out
of the sort of character he has specialised in playing during his
thirty year film career. The mannerisms are the same, as is the
intensity, but in this comedy from Harold Ramis (Groundhog Day, etc)
they are given a comic spin. De Niro plays Paul Vitti, a tough New
York mobster who is having anxiety attacks. Desperate to find a cure
before a planned meeting between all the gangster families, Vitti
secretly seeks psychiatric help.
The unlucky doctor is Ben Sobel (Billy Crystal), a family
therapist anxious to break out of the shadow of his more famous
father, an up-market psychiatrist, best selling author and multi-media
personality. Although Ben recognises the challenge in working with
Vitti, he is about to take a week off work and marry his fiancee
(Friends' star Lisa Kudrow), a tv journalist.
However, a powerful mobster like Vitti doesn't easily take
"no" for an answer, and Ben's simple life is turned upside down. He
becomes heavily involved in Vitti's cut throat and violent world.
This unusual premise works a treat under Ramis' slick
direction. There are plenty of superb one-liners and throw away
visual gags, and even the homage to The Godfather works beautifully.
In one scene, Ben tries to explain complex Freudian concepts to the
hot headed mobster. In another, Vitti turns the tables on Ben by
probing his fears, thus proving that even gangsters have rare insights
into human nature.
De Niro doesn't make many comedies (the disappointing We're No
Angels is a rare exception), but he seems to be enjoying himself in a
rare comic role that enables him to put a different spin on the type
of character that he has made his own. In a welcome return to form,
Crystal holds his own against the volatile and intimidating De Niro.
Kudrow, who added spark to the wonderful The Opposite Of Sex, is given
little to do as Ben's fastidious fiancee. Chazz Palminteri (The Usual
Suspects, etc) is also wasted in a small and increasingly familiar
role as a tough gangster who'd rather exchange bullets than words. If
anyone comes close to stealing the acting honours it is Joe Viterelli
(Bullets Over Broadway, etc), who gives a wonderful performance as
Vitti's rotund body guard, the aptly named Jelly.
Analyze This is a far cry from the mean streets that De Niro
ordinarily inhabits, but it is an interesting and entertaining
diversion through less travelled territory for, arguably, America's
greatest living screen actor.
Copyright © 2000 Greg King