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Analyze This

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Review by Aaron Beierle | posted January 5, 2000 | E-mail the Author
"Analyze This" is one of those films that feels like work to sit through. For every great moment(and there are quite a few genuinely funny ones), the rest of the film feels incredibly tedious to sit through. The plot starts off funny, but as it goes towards the end, it simply runs out of things to say, recycling jokes from the past 30 minutes over and over again. Robert Deniro gives it a try, but he's not given anything terribly funny to say. In fact, he's given somewhere in the neighborhood of 3 or 4 different jokes to use over and over and over again.

The movie stars Billy Crystal as a psychiatrist named Ben who finds himself working for the local mafia head, Paul Vitti(Deniro). How the two finally end up meeting each other, which I won't give away, is one of the few funny moments in the film, and it does start off promisingly. The two actors start off great, and they do have good chemistry together. We even laugh when Paul Vitti is convinced of Ben's talent. "You're good", he says. Ben disagrees. "Yes you are", Paul says, only with a touch of menace. Ben now agrees. Funny once, not funny twice. Definitely not when it's repeated, or something in the same vein, throughout the whole movie. The casting of Deniro as a mafia boss who needs to see a psychiatrist is something that has endless comedic possibilities. This film doesn't even try to skim the surface of these possibilities. We get the same joke, over and over again throughout the film, and Deniro is the only positive performance in the film.

Crystal, on the other hand, is barely here. We've seen him before doing performances full of mugging and over-the-top comedy. I didn't like him then and now, in a performance where he's toned down, he's completely uninteresting. Not only that, he plays the character as a jerk. We understand that Ben may not want to have Vitti as a patient for obvious reasons, but rather than play the scenes between the two as comedy, Crystal plays the scenes with an anger that isn't at all funny or comedic. It's simply obnoxious and it turns a few scenes where we're supposed to feel sorry for the character completely around. A character like this who is simply so unlikable, I didn't care what happened to him. There are quite a few actors who could have made this role quicker, more interesting and far smarter, like John Cusack, who would at least have given the role some edge or spark.The film also contains wasted opportunities for other actors as well. Chazz Palminteri, who is a phenomenally strong actor when given great material("The Usual Suspects") is hardly seen here as the rival gangster, Primo. His scenes all have a feeling as if adding him into the film was a thought the filmmakers had mid-production. Lisa Kudrow, a talented actress and capable of more than her work on "Friends", is around for so few scenes it doesn't even seem like it should qualify as an actual character.

The film is promising at the begining, but as it crosses the halfway point it becomes boring. We get constant variations on the same gag, or unfunny comedic riffs on gags taken from other mobster movies. When the film becomes obvious, it also becomes slow. A little more effort to spin the film off into other directions as it came towards the end would have been much appreciated, because towards the end, I began to get annoyed with it, and once I decend too far into annoyed, it's hard to come back. I'm sure the filmmakers could have thought up far more variations on the plot of the shrink helping the mafia head with his problems, but the movie seems satisfied to just let the plot do the work and get the laughs which is quite unfortunate, because it's not funny enough on its own to carry a film of this length. If you want to see a far, far, far(far) funnier version of a similar plot, watch "Grosse Pointe Blank", a film where John Cusack played a hitman going back for his high school reunion. In that film, Cusack's character had scenes where he had to work with a psychiatrist(Alan Arkin) over his problems with his "job." It's not throughout the whole film, but the few scenes that the two do have together are far funnier than the whole of this film. Cusack is absolutely fast and witty; Arkin plays the role far funnier, much quicker and definitely smarter than the way Crystal plays it here. Arkin's comedic irritation with his new hitman client is exactly the right way to do the role. Crystal does it exactly, perfectly, 110% wrong.

There are some funny moments here, but in-between those rare payoffs, the film feels quite slow, quite long and it frequently lacks focus. There's a few funny moments, but in general, this film's two hours felt like three.

The DVD VIDEO: Quite an excellent transfer by Warner Brothers. It shows that when Warner does things right, they really do things right on DVD. The image is letterboxed at 1.85:1(there's also a full-frame edition included on the flip-side). Colors are pure, rich and vibrant throughout. Colors are well-saturated as well, and there are no instances of color bleeding. Colors are especially beautiful in the Miami scenes.

Detail is excellent as well throughout- images are consistently clear, crisp and sharp throughout on both day and night shots. Flesh tones and shadow detail are also both good. Absolutely nothing wrong with the print used, nothing wrong otherwise either: no pixelization or shimmering. This is a clean, beautiful image that's a pleasure to watch.

SOUND: A lively sound mix that contains a snappy jazz score that sounds wonderful, a few little bits of action(mainly gunfire) and clear, clean dialogue. The music sounds especially beautiful- pure and rich, never distorted or problematic. Dialogue is excellent as well, never sounding compressed or thin. A lot of "Analyze This" is dialogue, but it contains its share of very nice touches.

MENUS:Basic film-themed menus based around the poster art with music playing behind it.

Commentary One:: A very good commentary track by Billy Crystal and Robert Deniro. The track starts off with a very interesting discussion by Crystal on how the movie came into being, spending 6 years in production and finally settling on Harold Ramis as a director. Crystal does most of the talking, discussing the choices of his character as well as what it was like to work with Deniro. There's also a bit of talk about the production, but for the most part, this focuses on dialogue, character choices and other tales. What will dissapoint most people is that there are a lot of pauses on this track of silence. Crystal is interesting when he talks, but that's when he talks.

Commentary Two:Director Harold Ramis talks on this track, but again, there's quite a few pauses in this discussion, which is different from the Ramis discussion on the "Ghostbusters" DVD. This isn't as much as track about production details, but it's more a track talking about the various actors and what it was like to work with both Crystal and Deniro. Especially interesting is his talks about working with the two main actors, but overall, Ramis contributes a lot of tales here about filming in general that viewers will find interesting. Again though, I was suprised at how both of these commentaries had quite a few pauses.

Gag Reel: A few very funny minutes of outtakes from the film.

Final thoughts: "Analyze This" was one of those movies that I really didn't care for, but it seemed like everyone else did. If you enjoyed the movie, I think you'll certainly enjoy this DVD- the quality is quite good and there's a few very nice extras..

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