A scene from 'Analyze That'
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* star
95 minutes | Rated: R
Opened: Friday, December 6, 2002
Directed by Harold Ramis

Starring Robert De Niro, Billy Crystal, Lisa Kudrow, Joe Viterelli, Cathy Moriarty-Gentile, Anthony LaPaglia, Reg Rogers


The laughs will seem considerably thinner without an audience to get them rolling.

   VIDEO RELEASE: 05.13.2003


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Crystal babysits paroled mobster De Niro in nearly laughless 'Analyze' sequel that's nothing but schtick

By Rob Blackwelder

The shamefully low standards adhered to in "Analyze That" begin with the comedy's very first scene, in which a conversation is composed of two takes so conspicuously incongruous that the actors aren't even looking the same direction from second to second -- and it's almost all downhill from there.

The performances of Robert De Niro and Billy Crystal (reprising their roles as a mobster and his shrink) are apathetic schtick. The plot is the worst kind of emaciated contrivance (faking insanity, De Niro is released from prison into neurotic Crystal's custody, and havoc ensues). The jokes that aren't reheated leftovers from 1999's "Analyze This" are painfully trite (everyone checks their pockets when a cell phone rings at a funeral), painfully telegraphed (De Niro disrupts a Crystal family gathering in an open bathrobe) or just plain painful ("Maybe if you're quiet enough you can do it without waking your wife," De Niro jibes Crystal about his sex life).

Worst of all, director Harold Ramis actually tries to jerk some tears with a grieving-son story arc for Crystal's shrink and maudlin soft-focus flashbacks of a happy childhood for De Niro's mafioso. Oh, puh-leaze!

Until the closing credit out-takes, the only laughs to be found in this sequel stem from De Niro's haminess early in the picture when he starts singing "West Side Story" love songs, then going so catatonic that even Three Stooges-style slaps don't elicit a reaction. All this because there's a price on his head and he needs to get out of the joint before he's whacked. The physical comedy in these scenes is all the funnier with the tough-guy baggage the former "Godfather" brings to the role.

But once he's out on a preposterous Department of Justice release that declares Crystal a "temporary federal institution" who will be blamed if anything goes wrong, "Analyze That" becomes the kind of movie that would fall apart of any character had even a scrap of common sense.

Told De Niro must be "sane, sober and gainfully employed" before his parole hearing in a month (even though he wasn't up for parole in the first place), Crystal frets histrionically while his charge charges through a montage of straight jobs (rude car dealer, rude maitre d') before becoming a consultant for a "Sopranos"-like TV series with a hyperactive cokehead director (Reg Rogers) and an Australian star (Anthony LaPaglia) faking a Bronx accent.

Meanwhile, the FBI follows De Niro around, except when it's not convenient for the plot. "We'll be back before they finish dinner," an agent radios in before abandoning a stakeout with disastrous results.

Peppered with fatiguing therapy sessions and the occasional complaint from Lisa Kudrow (who has nothing else to do as Crystal's beleaguered wife), the story plods along rather aimlessly until Ramis chooses to let the audience in on the fact that De Niro and his old crew are secretly planning an armored car job. Crystal ends up along for the ride on the insipidly easy heist (apparently armored cars don't have locks on their doors and police escorts don't call for back-up), and the closer the movie gets to its climax, the more flavorless the jokes become.

"Remember what I said about not flipping out?" Crystal inquires calmly at the height of the heist before launching into a Vaudevillian display of nervous hysteria.

Because this is a weightless Hollywood comedy, our caricature heroes cannot profit from their criminal enterprise. So an insipid, implausible change of heart is shoehorned into the last act, subsequently beating the last inkling of mafia farce out of the movie -- just in time for the blooper reel to roll, demonstrating definitively just how much funnier it was making "Analyze That" than watching it.


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