The mafia's Paul Vitti is back in prison and will need some serious counseling when he gets out. Naturally, he returns to his analyst Dr. Ben Sobel for help and finds that Sobel needs some serious help himself as he has inherited the family practice, as well as an excess stock of stress. Written by
The Boys Are Back, and They're Good-- Yes, Yeeeees They Are--
There was a time when `sequel' was synonymous with `less' with regards to quality, as mainly the studios wanted to capitalize on whatever was good about the original and duplicate or enhance in the follow-up the parts they `thought' were responsible for bringing in the big bucks at the box office. Which meant that usually, except in rare instances, the sequel failed to lived up to the first one and, more often than not was a huge disappointment. Happily, in the past few years that tide has seemingly turned, and as this film so aptly demonstrates, a sequel can, in fact, even surpass the original. `Analyze That,' directed by Harold Ramis, is the further adventures of Paul Vitti (Robert De Niro) and Dr. Ben Sobol (Billy Crystal), and in a word, it's a hoot. And, most importantly, this one stands on it's own; the characters are back, but the story is fresh-- it's decidedly NOT just more of the same or a rehash of `Analyze This.' As Paul Vitti himself would say about this film: `You... Yooou-- you're good, yes you are!'
All is not well with Paul Vitti, currently doing a stretch at Sing Sing; someone, it appears, wants him whacked, and it's driven him into some kind of psychotic episode from which he may never emerge if he doesn't get out of prison, and soon-- like right away. And who better to treat the `boss' than his personal therapist, Dr. Ben Sobol; or so goes the reasoning of those in high places, who actually have some ulterior motives in mind.
So Vitti is released into the custody of Dr. Sobol, who is not all that thrilled at the prospect of having a mob boss as a house guest. Even less thrilled is Sobol's wife, Laura (Lisa Kudrow). But they don't know the half of it, yet. There's a war brewing between two `families,' and Vitti, it seems, is right in the middle of it. And soon, some old faces begin showing up at the Sobol residence, like Jelly (Joe Viterelli); and if that isn't enough, the good Dr. Sobol has just been through the death of his own father, and he's grieving. And it's `a process.'
And a `process' is what brought this film so successfully to the screen, and it's gratifying, not to mention enjoyable and entertaining, when the result of a creative collaboration like this works so well. Screenwriters Peter Steinfeld, Peter Tolan and Harold Ramis crafted and delivered a script that is imaginative and fresh, and Ramis, who also directed `Analyze This,' as well as a couple of modern day comedy classics, `Caddyshack' and `National Lampoon's Vacation,' hits his stride with arguably his best work yet. His sets a perfect pace and his sense of timing has never been better. Of course it helps when you've got one of the best comedic actors in the business in there `doing lines' with the best actor-- period-- in the business. Crystal and De Niro together? Well, forgetaboudit... They take what is already great dialogue and make it ring in a way Quasimodo never dreamed possible. It's witty, extremely clever (like the reference to Ben's son, Michael, as `Clemenza') and, most importantly, FUNNY. And Ramis goes with the flow, keeping it all right on track from beginning to end. And De Niro singing? Does it GET any better than that?
As expected, De Niro slips back into his Vitti persona with facility, as does Crystal with his Sobol; the way they pick it up, as if they've been living in these guys' skins since `Analyze This,' lends credibility to the film and allows the viewer to settle in with them from the opening frames. So it's not only an entertaining film, but `user-friendly' to boot.
The single disappointment comes from the fact that the lovely Kudrow isn't afforded more screen time. She's such a welcome presence when she's on, and to her credit she makes the most of what time she's given, holding her own with her dynamic co-stars right on down the line.
A nice addition this time around is Cathy Moriarty-Gentile as new mob boss Patti LoPresti. This particular character suits her extremely well, and she runs with it; especially in her scenes with De Niro she has a captivating, commanding screen presence and it puts some real life in the exchanges between Vitti and LoPresti.
Conspicuously absent in this one, however, is Elizabeth Bracco, who did a nice job as Marie Vitti in the original. Sister of Lorraine Bracco (of TV's `Sopranos,' the hit series to which this film successfully pays homage in some key sequences and plot developments), Elizabeth seems to gravitate more toward roles in `indie' films, however, where she's carved out something of a niche for herself (as in Steve Buscemi's `Trees Lounge' in 96), a la Parker Posey and Catherine Keener. And though she's missed here, it's understandable; career wise, she's in good company.
The supporting cast includes Anthony LaPaglia (Tony), Joe D'Onofrio (Gunman), Richard Maldone (Joey), William DeMeo (Al Pacino), Reg Rogers (Raoul), Brian Rogalski (Earl) and Thomas Rosales Jr. (Coyote). Given the nature of the story and the characters, this film necessarily has something of an `edge' to it, but Ramis navigates the R-rated waters in a way that makes `Analyze That' funny, friendly AND highly entertaining. There are those who will say that it should all end here, on a successful note; personally, however, I'm waiting to hear that `Analyze And the Other Thing' will soon be in pre-production. As far as I'm concerned, you can never get enough of a good thing.
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