At first it’s like we’re in any regular gangster drama. We’re shown images of New York and the Mob as Robert De Niro in narration tells us about 1957, the last time all the Families of the New York area held a meeting. It went awry, and there’s hasn’t been another one since… until now. De Niro’s character Paul Vitti doesn’t feel too good about it, he’s confused and when an old friend is whacked by his side, it gets worse. That’s also when the movie puts a spin on gangster cliches, as Vitti decides to go into therapy! This comedy’s high-concept is, quite simply, to put the boss of a crime family and smartass shrink Ben Sobol (played by Billy Crystal) together and explore the funny possibilities. And it works marvelously ! This is really like two movies together, “Goodfellas” meets “What About Bob?”. You got the family comedy about the psychiatrist, his ridiculous patients (one’s played by SNL’s Molly Shannon), his wife-to be Laura (Friends’ scene-stealing Lisa Kudrow) and his no-nonsense son (Kyle Sahiby). And then you got Vitti, his right hand man Jelly (the amusingly deadpan Joe Viterelli) and a bunch of other colorful wiseguys preparing for the big reunion while dodging attacks from opposing Don Primo (Chazz Palminteri).
It makes for an interesting balance of laughs and shoot-outs, but what really makes it fly is the perfect casting of Robert De Niro, the quintessential big screen gangster. He’s such an intense, unpredictable performer that he can be really menacing. He’s able to exhale real violence and aggressiveness. Analyse This uses that De Niro persona and shows a new side of it. We get to see that even though he’s a criminal, he still has feelings and problems. It’s hilarious to see De Niro going from tough to sensitive! He’s nicely matched with Billy Crystal, who’s great at making witty cynical remarks. He’s like the guy in his living room goofing on “The Godfather”, except that he’s actually in the movie! The movie was co-written and directed by Harold Ramis, one of the best talents in American comedy. He’s the guy behind “Caddyshack” and “Ghostbusters” as well as “Groundhog Day”, a favorite of mine. His latest doesn’t reach the comic brilliance of that Bill Murray vehicle, but it’s still a clever, often laugh-out-loud funny comedy. You gotta see it if only for the chance to see De Niro bursting into tears while watching a TV commercial!