Monday, March 10, 2014

Analyze That (2002)(Minor Spoilers Review)

**This review contains MINOR spoilers. No major reveals, surprises, or twists.**

Following the events of Analyze This, Paul Vitti (Robert De Niro) is stuck in Sing Sing prison. Paranoia overwhelms Paul after a series of failed executions at Sing Sing, so Paul fakes insanity for protection. Paul selects random songs from West Side Story for crazed performances to secure an isolated spot inside the padded walls, but West Side Story is an unstable safety net.

Meanwhile, Dr. Ben Sobel (Billy Crystal) is still grieving after the death of his father, Isaac. Ben is trying to move on, so he can enjoy a peaceful life with his wife, Laura (Lisa Kudrow) and his son, Michael (Kyle Sabihy). But Paul throws another hurdle into Ben’s shaky situation.

Ben visits Sing Sing for a personal evaluation to prove the legitimacy of Paul’s condition, and the FBI forces Ben into a non-negotiable deal after the visist: The FBI will release Paul into Ben’s custody under house arrest rules, with the promise of daily therapy sessions. Paul has to stay out of trouble, and he needs to reform himself as a respectable citizen, and Dr. Sobel’s time is running out before Paul’s hearing with the parole board.

Paul’s fresh start as an ordinary working man? It’s a disastrous failure, but Paul receives one last chance from a producer/director named Raoul Berman (Reg Rogers). Berman hires Paul, Jelly (Joe Viterelli), and other members of Paul’s crew as official consultants for his show. Berman wants to add some authenticity to his mafia themed TV show named “Little Caesar,” so Paul directs traffic for his crew to offer some advice. To add to his list of duties, Paul is the personal coach for Anthony Bella (Anthony LaPaglia), the star of the show, who leads the way in the leading role as Nicky Caesar.

But a wave of trouble from his old lifestyle complicates Paul’s new mission and his job. Lou “The Wrench” Rigazzi (Frank Gio) is a feared and respected mob boss, and he’s stuck in a feud with his rival Patti LoPresti (Cathy Moriarty). Paul is stuck in the middle of the Rigazzi/LoPresti feud. To make matters worse, Rigazzi is keeping a close eye on Paul’s every move, and Patti gives Eddie DeVol (Raymond Franza), a high-ranking enforcer in Patti’s crew, strict orders to murder Paul, if he accepts any offers from Rigazzi.

Paul is trying to keep a low-profile after his surprise retirement from the mafia, but Dr. Sobel suspects something fishy. With some help from his crew, and Eddie (at Patti’s request), Paul secretly plans a lucrative and risky heist for one last score. Paul is walking on thin ice with four sets of watchful eyes tracking his every move, but a persistent Dr. Sobel follows Paul, his crew, and Eddie during a meeting for more answers. Dr. Sobel is willing to risk everything to save Paul (again), but a startling discovery complicates Ben‘s mission……

Crystal and De Niro? They’re still sharp in the sequel, as the odd couple duo, but Ben is kind of annoying this time around. Throughout the movie, Ben is still “grieving” over his father’s death, because it’s a “process.” Ben’s constant panic attacks/outbursts feel tiresome after thirty minutes. And Ben’s revelation during the finale is my pick for Analyze That’s worst eye rolling moment, because the reasons for Ben’s confession are too obvious (the constant foreshadowing gives everything away), so it’s hard to buy into the surprise for Ben’s moment.

Lisa Kudrow, Kyle Sabihy, Pat Cooper (Masiello), and Joe Viterelli return as familiar faces from the original. No major changes for their characters (Michael takes a job as Paul’s driver, but his screen time is limited to sporadic appearances), but the returning group delivers a few good laughs. Although, it’s a bittersweet return for Joe Viterelli, because Analyze That is Viterelli’s last film role before his death.

Reg Rogers is an easy pick for a standout on the list of new additions to the cast, as the pretentious and whacky director, and Frank Gio only appears in three scenes here. Moriarty has a few entertaining moments as the tough businesswoman, who won’t back down, and the sight of De Niro and Moriarty provides a cool nostalgia kick. Remember, Moriarty portrayed Robert De Niro’s wife (Vikki LaMotta) in Raging Bull.

With all my complaints, it’s hard to ignore the facts: Crystal and De Niro still work as a team here. Yeah, they’re not perfect, but the troubled mobster and the panicky psychiatrist shtick is good for a handful of laughs the second time around, and Rogers is hilarious.

Everything else? Oy vey. A few cringeworthy attempts at humor include Paul’s “limp sword” dream, and the dinner scene at a sushi restaurant. Ben is taking medication for his panic attacks, but he pops one too many pills before dinner. Well, the overdose causes numbness in Ben’s tongue and his mouth, so Ben can’t chew any food, or drink any liquids. It’s a horribly unfunny series of events, because food’s flying out of his mouth, and Ben is spitting everywhere. And the West Side Story stuff almost gave me a headache.

The story is a jumbled mess. At first, Paul’s trying to avoid certain death after a few assassination attempts, and we’re lead to believe Paul is on a mission to find the identity of his attacker(s). But the story takes another unexpected turn, when Paul tries to adjust to the real world as a working man. After that, the story takes another turn towards a different storyline with Paul and his buddies helping out on the set of Little Caesar. AND on top of that, Analzye That opens another door with Paul’s plan for a heist. Oh, and Paul is caught in the middle during the blood feud between The Rigazzi crew and Patti’s crew.

After Paul’s release from Sing Sing, Analyze That devolves into a carbon copy of the first film. Paul is the tough mobster, who’s trying to move on, and Ben is the wimpy sidekick during Paul’s adventures. Remember the trick with a daydreaming Ben yelling at or tearing into someone, who annoys him for various reasons? Well, you’ll see that trick again here during Ben’s opening scene at his father’s funeral. The first time around, Ben daydreaming was something unique. In the sequel, it’s not funny, because you get the feeling they’re rehashing the same old tricks all over again for “Remember this?” reactions. 

Robert De Niro’s kooky loon act had some potential, but Analyze That can’t measure up to the original. It’s a disappointing sequel that’s short on laughs, and they pulled a page out of Danny Ocean’s playbook for the overly complex heist scene at the end. Don’t get your hopes up too high for this one, because Analyze That is another forgettable and unnecessary sequel. And to add insult to injury, the closing gag reel trumps the actual film for genuinely funny and consistent laughs.

Rating: 4/10

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