'Analyze This': THR's 1999 Review

Analyze This - H - 1999
Has multiple personalities and hits the audience with a few fresh jokes but far too many 1970s mafia movie cliches.

On March 5, 1999, Warner Bros. brought Harold Ramis' Analyze This to theaters nationwide, where it would go on to gross $176 million globally in its theatrical run. The Hollywood Reporter's original review is below.

Unable to achieve a consistent tone, Harold Ramis' mobster comedy Analyze This has multiple personalities and hits the audience with a few fresh jokes but far too many 1970s mafia movie cliches. Despite an unattractive title and only a woefully underutilized Lisa Kudrow to attract younger moviegoers, the Warner Bros. wide release still shapes up as a likely box office winner.

Glowing reviews and word-of-mouth from undemanding critics and audiences will revolve around the sometimes gutsy but often labored performances of leads Robert De Niro and Billy Crystal. Analyzing this shabbily tailored star vehicle, however, is not much fun.

Opening with a splashy prologue set in 1957, with New York gangster Paul Vitti (De Niro) narrating the story of an ill-fated meeting between organized crime's "big bosses," Analyze shifts to the present, when another underworld gathering has been called. Born and raised to lead his crime family, Vitti is a tough hombre, but he's having strangely vulnerable moments caused by the stress of taking over when his boss and mentor is gunned down.

With Vitti dodging real bullets during an explosive assassination scene, the film shifts breezily to the dreary therapy sessions of Ben Sobel (Crystal), a big-city psychiatrist with his own hang-ups. Decent and law-abiding but professionally unchallenged, Ben is divorced and about to remarry. Engaged to a Miami-based newscaster (Kudrow), he is out for a drive with the young son (Kyle Sabihy) from his first marriage when he rear-ends Vitti's limo.

Anxious to do the right thing, Ben insists on giving his business card to Vitti's bodyguard Jelly (Joe Viterelli), though it's clear the mobsters prefer to ignore the mishap. Soon after, Vitti seeks out the "head doctor" to deal with embarrassing emotional outbursts. While De Niro has a somewhat rough time shifting between macho mafioso and weepy sentimentalist, Crystal is more consistent as feisty Ben.

A few amusing, inspired sight gags keep one hoping that Ramis and crew will find an unpredictable approach and snappier rhythm, but schizoid storytelling undermines the project. Blackly humorous one moment — Vitti ruins Ben's first attempt at marrying Kudrow's impatient airhead when a hitman is tossed from a hotel window — and not above re-creating The Godfather shot-for-shot during one of Ben's violent dreams, Analyze invariably turns back to the offbeat chemistry between Crystal and De Niro.

Unfortunately, neither actor goes far enough with the premise's comic possibilities. De Niro's crying fits would be funnier if they were more convincing. Crystal seems to be holding back, though his frequent outbursts of indignation and defiance are the film's best moments. Chazz Palminteri plays Vitti's nemesis, but his performance is an even less interesting caricature than De Niro's. — David Hunter, originally published on Feb. 22, 1999