Worth A Look: 58.62%
Just Average: 10.34%
Pretty Crappy: 11.21%
6 reviews, 80 user ratings
by Andrew Howe
I'm not sure if anyone has written the obvious five-word review of this film ("Analyze This? I'd rather not."), but much as I love the idea I believe I owe everyone a little more than that. Having just come from a repeat viewing of The Sixth Sense, I am put in mind to make this an interactive review of sorts, in which you will be able to use each of your five senses to uncover various aspects of my feelings about this film. Sound like fun? OK, limber up those aural nerves, because the first question for the day is:What did you hear, my blue-eyed son?
"A laugh-free zone"
Come a bit closer for a moment, close enough that these words become little more than a blur on the page. Now press the ol' ear up against the screen (unless you're reading this on an unshielded monitor, in which case you may get a lethal dose of gamma rays for your trouble). Do you hear that high-pitched keening, like a violin string that's been wound way too tight? That, my friends, is the sound of this film's creators stretching a one-note idea so thin that it's damn near translucent.
For the record, Analyze This concerns itself with the events which take place when Billy Crystal's low-key suburban psychiatrist is forced to take on Robert DeNiro's career criminal as a patient (the weight of a life filled with murder and wrongdoing having gotten him a little down, you understand). This opens the way for a bunch of laughs as this supposedly stone-hard mafia dude tries to come to terms with holding a Magnum in one hand and a box of Kleenex to dry his anxiety-induced tears in the other.
But it doesn't, because while it would make a great ten minute vignette on Saturday Night Live it doesn't possess the requisite substance to carry a ninety minute movie. Consider, if you will, the delightful scenes between John Cusack and Alan Arkin in Grosse Pointe Blank. These episodes were based on the exact same premise, but GPB's creators were canny enough to realise that it was best left as an amusing adjunct to the main storyline. After all, once you get over the initial humour of the situation there's really no particular place to go.
Such common sense appears to have eluded those responsible for Analyze This, however, and so we are treated to the cinematic equivalent of 24 hours in a labour ward. It goes on, and it goes on, and before too long you find yourself slipping into a coma of the type usually reserved for shift workers watching the Home Shopping Channel.
Memo to Ramis and friends - unless you're God, one idea is never quite enough.
Perfumed dung is still dung
OK, now stick your nose up against the screen. Take a deep breath - do you smell that nasty aroma, sort of like burning cordite? What you are smelling is the powerful stench of mendacity rising from the offices of those responsible for marketing this film as a comedy.
Every now and again somebody decides to target a comedy at an adult audience, and by that I don't mean people who have recently earned the right to go to prison for committing heinous acts (like foisting this film on an unsuspecting public, now that I think about it). I'm talking about people over the age of forty, the dead zone of the cinema-going demographic. The Birdcage springs to mind, as does Prizzi's Honour, another supposed comedy which, on the day I saw it, seemed to have attracted an audience sporting more grey hairs than the crowd at your average Tom Jones concert. It's not a particularly hard trick to pull, provided you've got a couple of actors known to appeal to an older crowd and a premise which sounds quirky enough that Grandma can feel a little daring for putting the Zimmer frame in storage while she hot-foot’s it down the local cinema.
The problem is, this is not a particularly funny film (a trait shared by a large number of the comedies which service this niche, I might add). Now I can appreciate that comedy is, more than most things, a personal preference. I thought The Princess Bride was hilarious, maybe you didn't. But I have spoken to several people about this film, and they have all admitted that the sound of their laughter was not much heard on the day they viewed this particular slice of celluloid. Part of the reason is the paper-thin premise I mentioned above, and part of it is for reasons I will discuss below. But, in the final reckoning, it is a simple fact that the majority of the jokes in this film are just not funny. It is a very mannered work, clinical and sterile in its content and execution, almost anal in the way it lumbers steadily from plot points A to Z, and ultimately it comes across as an untainted specimen of by-the-numbers filmmaking. There is no heart, there is no soul, and there's sure as heck no brain.
I can understand why someone might climb Everest because it's there, but if someone could explain why this film's creators thought scaling a mountain of cow dung was a worthy expenditure of time and effort I'd really love to hear it.
Tourism in a talent-free zone
Do you see the name in the next sentence? Lisa Kudrow. Jesus, is she an awful actress or what?
The perils of Plasticine
Place your hands up against the monitor. Do you feel that spongy gunk pressing back against you? That's the newly-formed rubber mannequin which Billy Crystal poured fresh from his one-and-only mould for the purpose of taking his place in this film.
Billy Crystal is a fine comic actor, but unfortunately his range is somewhat limited. I would posit that his performances in When Harry Met Sally and City Slickers showcased pretty much everything about his comic talent which ever needed to be said, and that everything since then has been mere regurgitation. Like Eddie Murphy, he trades on a few shticks (his perpetually morose demeanour, his unique delivery style, and a nice line in facial expressions) which tend to grow a little tired as the years go by. He's still a reasonable stand-up act, but these days you can never get over the feeling that you've seen it all before. This is not always an epitaph for a career - after all, Robin Williams has been getting away with it for years. However, it does mean that you can no longer rely on his comedic talent alone to carry a film. Analyze This attempts just that, and as a result his limitations become painfully apparent.
Put him in the midst of a top-notch ensemble, and you've probably got something on your hands. Put him in something like this, and you're just asking for trouble.
Taking the Pepsi challenge
Now I know this is going to take a little personal bravery, but I would ask you to run your tongue down the length of the screen (hope you didn't just wipe it with industrial-strength cleaner …) Can you feel your taste buds being assaulted by that bile-like substance?
That's the bad taste which this film leaves in the mouth, and is probably my single greatest reason for disparaging it.
Let's get one thing straight - this film was not marketed as a black comedy. It has none of the hallmarks of such an endeavour (such as the name "Christian Slater" in the opening credits, or quotes along the lines of "Delightfully twisted!" on the cover of the video), and as such we are entitled to believe that we are to be presented with a film which will provide a few yucks and cause us to leave the cinema infused with a general sense of well-being.
However, there is a very disturbing undercurrent of mean-spiritedness running through this movie. The blame for this can be laid squarely at the door of the screenwriters, who saw fit to allow DeNiro to reprise his roles from any number of the gangster flicks he has in his back catalogue. It has to be said that his portrayal of Paul Vitti is chillingly believable, and therein lies the root of the problem.
One the "jokes" which appears in the film features Billy Crystal asking DeNiro, in an accusing fashion, "You don't hear the word 'no' very often, do you?" To which DeNiro replies (and I'm paraphrasing here) "I hear it all the time. 'No! Please don't kill me!' 'No! Don't hurt me!'" [Cue canned laughter]
That is not funny. What we are talking about here is an attempt to elicit laughter from a situation which alludes to murder and brutality, and I wonder how amusing anyone who has ever had a loved one attacked by some scumbag found that little exchange. Now like I said, if this was a black comedy you could get away with that kind of thing. But, dammit, this is a "straight" comedy through and through. So it is that the film's creators continuously juxtapose the usual adult-oriented comedy standards (the dizzy fiancée, the smart-mouthed fat kid) with general nastiness which would not be out of place in a Scorsese film (gunfights, people flying out of tenth-storey windows, ad nauseum).
Now I will admit that this seems to have become a platform of mine in recent times, but I firmly believe that there are certain ground rules which must be abided by if you are making a certain type of film (or at least if you're going to market it as such). Analyze This breaks those rules and then some, and as a result "gently amused" becomes "vaguely disquieted" in very short order indeed. I suppose I could compliment the filmmakers for not shying away from the difficulties inherent in their premise, but since we've already proved that the concept was flawed to begin with I guess we're back where we started. Wherever the heck that is.
(Incidentally, if you want to see an example of how to do this type of thing properly, look no further than the superb Midnight Run. That film featured its share of unsettling moments, but the absence of a comic actor such as Crystal in a lead role ensured that it was presented as a drama with comedic elements. If you disagree, you know where to find me.)
So is this film all bad? Well, I suppose there are a couple of good moments (Crystal introducing DeNiro to his fiancée's parents, his attempts to cover for DeNiro at the mob meeting), but to be honest the same could be said of Porky's. Why a talented director like Ramis chose to follow Groundhog Day (being only one of the finest comedies ever released) with this mess is beyond me, for in the final reckoning what we are left with is an empty, soulless film bereft of everything which a good comedy needs to succeed.Analyze This? I'll bet you wish you never asked.
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originally posted: 05/09/00 00:02:19