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'Analyze': Don of Laughs

By Rita Kempley
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, March 5, 1999

  Movie Critic

'Analyze This'
Robert De Niro makes Billy Crystal an offer he shouldn't refuse. (Warner Bros.)

Harold Ramis
Robert De Niro;
Billy Crystal;
Lisa Kudrow;
Kyle Sahiby;
Joseph Viterelli
Running Time:
1 hour, 46 minutes
For language and sexuality
Robert De Niro's wise guy gets in touch with his inner goombah courtesy of Billy Crystal's psychotherapist in "Analyze This," an uproarious, four-letter-word-flinging farce from Harold "Ghostbusters" Ramis.

Ramis, who directed and cowrote this gangland farce, doesn't provide much of a plot, but he does extract every last yuk from this lively clash of id and superego, this spoofy buddies' odyssey from underworld to Prozac nation.

De Niro adroitly skewers his tough paisano image in the role of Paul Vitti, a Brooklyn-based kingpin who can no longer handle the demands of his career. Along with the hits and the heartburn, Vitti must now deal with competition from the influx of Chinese and Russian mafias.

Is it any wonder he comes down with a Godfather complex, whose symptoms include heart palpitations, erectile dysfunction, crying jags and panic attacks. To that end, he starts seeing Ben Sobol (Crystal), a family therapist with a roster of patients suffering from hilariously humdrum ills.

"What's my goal here? To make you a happy, well-adjusted gangster?" demands Sobol, whose last patient had been jabbering about his indecisiveness before Vitti's thick-necked henchman, Jelly (amiably oafish Joe Viterelli), aids the decision-making process by yanking the whiner out of the room.

Vitti and Sobol make the perfect comedic odd couple. Naturally, the kneecap-cracking goodfella and the psycho-babbling couch commando have more in common than they first realize. Both have followed in the footsteps of powerful fathers and neither feels comfortable with the decision.

Alas, Vitti's breakthrough is postponed when he tells his chief rival, Primo (Chazz Palminteri), that he is seeking "closure wid you." Primo doesn't know from closure, but the word has a finality about it that he doesn't like.

Matters are further complicated by the doc's marriage to a Miami broadcaster (Lisa Kudrow), Primo's vendetta against Vitti and the arrival of the FBI, which gets wind of an upcoming mob summit.

For the most part, these events don't show or say anything new, nor do they nudge the story onward. Likewise, Kudrow's principal role is not that of a bride-to-be; she's essentially playing filler. Palminteri has several funny moments that set up Crystal's big moment – a riotous attempt to impersonate the Vitti family's consigliere, where he comes one Freudian slip away from concrete overshoes.

"Analyze This," like HBO's breakout series "The Sopranos," celebrates the brio of gangster life but also acknowledges the declining clout and increasing dysfunctionality of traditional crime family values. Psychiatry is also suffering through an identity crisis in the face of stingy HMOs, aromatherapy and St. John's wort. The world is a psych ward.

© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

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