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From the October 1999
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ANALYZE THIS
4 Stars
A mafia hit for De Niro and Crystal
A mafia hit for De Niro and Crystal
STARS: Robert De Niro, Billy Crystal, Lisa Kudrow, Chazz Palminteri, Joe Viterelli
DIRECTOR: Harold Ramis SCREENPLAY: Ken Lonergan / Peter Tolan
CERTIFICATE: 15 DISTRIBUTOR and Picture copyright: Warner
RUNNING TIME: 1hr 43mins
OPENING DATE (UK): September 24

Not since Brando starred in The Freshman has an actor sent up his trademark tough guy persona to such wonderful comic effect. De Niro gives one of the best performances of his career in this madcap Mafia mirth-fest from Groundhog Day director Harold Ramis. Add Crystal into the mix (who for the first time in ages is funny) and the delights of this feel-good mobster movie are just too good.

De Niro plays Manhattan mob boss Paul Vitti whose Godfather lifestyle is beginning to stress him out. It’s not just the hits being taken out on him and his family by arch rival Primo Sindone (Palminteri) that are taking their toll. Vitti is also suffering from inexplicable panic attacks, fighting bouts of impotence and breaking out in tears when watching sentimental TV commercials. Too macho to be seen making psychiatric appointments, Vitti recruits Ben Sobel (Crystal) to advise him on what therapy will turn him into a happy, well-adjusted Public Enemy.

What begins as a favour turns into a nightmare for Sobel as Vitti continues to make analytical breakthroughs and starts demanding 24-hour attention. The problem is Sobel is headed for Miami to marry broadcaster Laura MacNamara (Kudrow) and can’t spare the time. So Vitti follows him to Florida, precipitating a gang-land shoot-out that halts Sobel’s wedding, causes even more friction between Vitti and Sindone – who wants to know what this word ‘closure’ he keeps hearing actually means – and wreaks hysterical havoc on everyone’s personal life.

In truth, the basic story-line is pretty throwaway. What makes Analyze This work like a charm is the succulent interplay between De Niro and Crystal and the way their double act is woven through ever more elaborate set-ups. De Niro’s deadpan responses to all the Freudian mumbo-jumbo perfectly enhance the comic tone, while Crystal finally acts instead of rattling off a string of left-over Oscar one-liners.

His funniest scene comes at a climactic ‘family’ get-together where he has to pose as Vitti’s consigliere. The trouble is he can’t even pronounce the word! Director Ramis’s skilled comic timing doesn’t try too hard for laughs and lets the humour naturally evolve from the two key performances, ensuring both stars continuously shine throughout the entire cod Corleone confection.

Because Analyze This is a two-man show, Palminteri and Kudrow are side-lined although the brilliant Viterelli, as Vitti’s bodyguard Jelly, does make a memorable impact. At one point Jelly tells Vitti, “We gotta change with the times” and his neurotic boss replies, “What? I gotta get a f**kin’ web-site?” Such fresh and funny dialogue flows fast and loose through the smart scenario, making this glorious spoof an ‘Untouchable’ class act.

Alan Jones

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