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In this episode: Analyze This

The best and funniest part of this movie is Robert De Niro, who plays on his history of goodfella roles to create an amusing parody. Here, Robert does mobster with a twist, the cliché Italian macho thug with some psychological disorders he finds threatening to his manhood and therefore to his status as mob boss. He lets the insecurity of his faltering mental health show ever so slightly through his stony gangster face. It's cute. Yes, watching him slide from tough guy to blubbering puppy dog is very worth watching.

In fact, that is the biggest charm of Analyze This: watching the gangster myth be made fun of not in a Leslie Nielsen sort of way but in a clever, more subtle way. The movie was better for me as a gentle mob farce than as a mob-intrudes-into-psychiatrist's-dull-life comedy. As wacky as Harold Ramis (the director) may want us to believe it is for Billy Crystal's life to be constantly interrupted by his new client's henchmen, it isn't really. In fact, it becomes annoying after happening so many times. "I quit." "Okay, but no you don't." "Fine." Repeat. A few of the actual interruptions are amusing, like during Billy and Lisa Kudrow's wedding ceremony in Miami, but the rest are merely okay. Nah, the fun of the movie is that mob stuff, led by Robert. Like when Billy first "runs into" Robert's best man, Jelly. It's a funny "what if" scenario punctuated with some good visual humor. Or when Chazz Palminteri gets a curious call from Robert, who vents his frustrations in a most therapeutic way, as coached by Billy.

So if the other part of the story, the therapist's life in ruins, isn't as funny, is it all Billy's fault? Oh, no. In fact, Billy Crystal is very good in Analyze This because he's reserved. He gets to do some nice slow burning and some good Jewish yelling, and near the end even gets to do some faux Italian schtick (some of which is just amusing, but some of which is very funny, SLAP SLAP). Beyond that, he's a device, I guess, but at least he's fun to watch.

Lisa Kudrow, who I love, doesn't have much to do here, so she has to resort to playing Variations on a Theme by Phoebe. Here she's Intelligent Forceful Phoebe. Too bad. She needs another role like she had in The Opposite of Sex, something she can use to show her acting chops. Acting chops. Acting chops. Acting chops. The more I say that, the more ridiculous it sounds. Acting chops. Acting chops. Acting chops. Acting chops.

Analyze This is really an enjoyable movie with some good laugh-out-loud moments. But the title... It's silly. It sounds like the name of a rude Chris Farley/David Spade movie, not a semi-intelligent vehicle for Rob and Billy.

Anyway, this makes a fine weekend afternoon feature, or a long-lunch weekday feature. If you want to see something not too challenging and fun, here ya go.




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©1999 Steven Lekowicz