ANALYZE THIS is the story of a tough New York gangster who suddenly begins to experience anxiety attacks and finds himself seeking the aid of a reluctant, but inquisitive, therapist. Billy Crystal and Robert DeNiro shine as doctor and patient in this violent, obscenity-filled comedy which, while winsome, earnest and fun, stretches its premise too thin.
“I would never do a movie that trivializes violence,” said writer/director Harold Ramis. For the most part he succeeds in the making of ANALYZE THIS, even though it is the story of a tough New York gangster who suddenly begins to experience anxiety attacks and finds himself seeking the aid of a reluctant, but inquisitive, therapist.
The movie begins with Paul Vitti (Robert DeNiro) as the head of a major crime family barely surviving an attack on his life in typical mob style, in a hail of bullets at a local Italian restaurant. Not far from there, Dr. Ben Sobel (Billy Crystal), a divorced psychiatrist and single parent, is attending a party honoring his father, a pretentious publicity craving, Upper East Side therapist and author, who is too self-absorbed to pay much attention to his own son’s wedding announcement.
While attempting to find out who is trying to rub him out, Paul Vitti discovers that he has developed some heavy emotional problems, such as breaking into uncontrollable sobbing, panicking unrealistically and losing his concentration during sex. This state of affairs is not only disconcerting to a “macho” man like him, but also to his soldiers who find it all more than just unbecoming, but actually downright embarrassing.
To make matters worse, a major meeting of all the crime families is coming up very soon, and Vitti needs to put himself back together before the meeting takes place, before everyone else finds out his emotional shortcomings. As bad luck would have it, Dr. Sobel, drives into the back of Vitti’s’ car, the trunk of which happens to contain more than just a spare tire. A minor traffic accident becomes a fateful event when Jelly, (Jospeh Viterelli), Vitti’s driver and faithful right hand, suggests that maybe this “guy” can help him find the answer to what ails him.
Vitti doesn’t lose any time in pushing his weight around, and interjecting himself into every aspect of Dr. Sobel’s life, even his wedding to Laura (Lisa Kudrow), a television reporter who can’t make heads or tails of what is happening. She is smart enough, however, to realize that with bodies falling out of buildings and bullets flying over the entire place, her wedding is turning out to be nothing like the wedding she envisioned. Before anyone can say “I do,” Ben finds himself completely immersed in the gangster lifestyle with mobsters, guns, linguini, and FBI agents all around him, and Vitti literally crying on his shoulder every five minutes. Like so many movie comedies before this one, it all comes to a head in the grand finale at the meeting of the crime families, and not without a final twist or two to boot.
Though a one-joke movie, making fun of the stress that a Mafia boss has, ANALYZE THIS is a lot of fun. In many ways, it is reminiscent of the Jack Nicholson/Kathleen Turner vehicle PRIZZI’S HONOR, but better, because the serious aspects of it have a deeper bite than PRIZZI does. The strong disarming and disruption of Ben Sobel’s life, while funny, is also both disturbing and sobering at the same time. Billy Crystal and Robert DeNiro are such accomplished actors that even if the writing had been weaker, they probably would still have pulled it off anyway.
DeNiro’s long list of credits and versatility has clearly established him as one of the foremost screen actors. It is somewhat puzzling, therefore, that in recent years he has increasingly turned to portraying ethnic characters, thus effectively limiting his range. Lisa Kudrow, on the other hand, was disappointing, perhaps overshadowed by her giant costars, having failed to meet them at their level. Joe Viterelli as Jelly, the seasoned mobster is perfect in his role, and Chazz Palminteri is also credible as Vitti’s nemesis.
Although Ramis tries to keep this movie at a level any audience would enjoy, he nevertheless gives in to the demands of modern moviemaking which includes a barrage of swearing, profanities, obscenities, and some graphic sexual activity. Also, it is hard to be sympathetic to a killer. That is both the irony and the humor of ANALYZE THIS. Both are at odds with each other and create a weaker movie than necessary. The Lloyd Bridges movie MAFIA took the comedic low road, but ANALYZE THIS takes the comedic high road. This may appeal to many, even though the movie’s narrow humor and objectionable material probably will make it inaccessible to larger audiences.
Moderately strong pagan worldview with some moral elements; 95 obscenities & 9 profanities; moderately strong slapstick Mafia-type violence which including threats with guns, shooting, man thrown to sharks, hitting, kicking, man thrown from high window, & slapping; briefly depicted adultery & some sexual talk; upper male nudity & women in bikinis; alcohol use; smoking; and, lying & scalalogical humor.