Friday, March 7, 2014

Analyze This (1999)(Spoiler Review)

**This review contains spoilers**

Feared mob boss Paul Vitti (Robert De Niro) needs a shoulder to lean on. Paul’s longtime best friend and advisor, Dominic Manetta (Joseph Rigano) is the victim of a drive by shooting. Paul suffers a series of uncontrollable panic attacks and breakdowns after Dominic’s death. Under Paul’s orders, Jelly (Joe Viterelli), Paul’s right hand man, forces a psychiatrist named Dr. Ben Sobel (Billy Crystal) to accept Paul as his new patient after a fender-bender.

Dr. Sobel hits a few bumps in the road during Paul’s awkward and unplanned sessions. Meanwhile, Dr. Sobel is trying to balance a series of problems in his life. Ben’s trying to fix a strained relationship with his father, Dr. Isaac Sobel (Bill Macy), and his mother, Dorothy (Rebecca Schull), because Isaac chooses a book signing for his new release over Ben‘s wedding. On top of that, Ben’s anxious fiance Laura MacNamara (Lisa Kudrow) is nervous about the wedding, and her relationship with Ben’s son, Michael (Kyle Sabihy).

Members of Paul’s mob family, including Salvatore Masiello (Pat Cooper), voice their concerns for Paul‘s image and his relationship with Dr. Sobel. Paul is still an emotional train wreck, but he’ll have to pull himself together for a once in a lifetime meeting with every mafia family in the US. Paul’s rival, Primo Sidone (Chazz Palminteri) organizes the meeting. Primo has plans to become the king of organized crime, and a bitter Primo is determined to murder Paul before the meeting.

Dr. Sobel tries to balance problems with his upcoming wedding, and Paul relives the tragic circumstances surrounding his father’s death. But FBI agents complicate Dr. Sobel’s relationship with Paul. The FBI convinces Dr. Sobel to wear a wire with a doctored tape recording, and to add to his growing list of problems, a traitor within Paul’s crew leaks Paul’s location to Primo Sidone during a special dinner one night……

Robert De Niro and Billy Crystal share good chemistry together, as the bickering odd couple. De Niro delivers an entertaining parody performance, as the tough and manly mobster. The routine feels tiresome towards the end, but De Niro’s “sobbing broken man” act is good for a few cheap laughs. Billy Crystal is a nice fit for the uptight and nerdy psychiatrist, and Crystal‘s random outbursts are hilarious. There’s a scene at the beginning with Ben and one of his patients. Ben is tired of Caroline’s (Molly Shannon) non-stop whining. In his mind, Ben imagines himself yelling at Caroline with no mercy to deliver a “tough love” approach.

Palminteri’s screen time is limited to sporadic appearances, but he’s believable as the slimy antagonist with a mean streak. Joe Viterelli provides consistent laughs, as the dedicated and pushy sidekick, and Lisa Kudrow is decent enough as the whiny and nagging fiance. And if you’re wondering, Molly Shannon  appears in the one scene with Crystal at the beginning, and that’s it. Seriously, what happened to Molly Shannon? Anyone remember Mary Katherine Gallagher (or “Superstar!”)?

Who’s the traitor in Paul‘s crew? It’s Carlo Mangano (Leo Rossi), and Carlo is the informant for Primo. Why? With Paul dead, Carlo is free to take over as boss with Primo’s support. But Paul has a breakthrough with Dr. Sobel after a misunderstanding one night. Long story short, Paul was seconds away from pulling the trigger to execute Ben, because Paul was convinced Ben helped the FBI with secret inside information. And Dr. Sobel agreed to wear a wire, because the FBI tampered with a recording of Paul’s voice. In the FBI’s version of the tape recording, Paul announces his plans to kill Ben for his betrayal. Unbeknownst  to Paul, Ben removed the FBI’s recording device at the restaurant.

Anyway, Dr. Sobel pushes Paul to reveal the truth (Paul lied about his father’s death to Ben) behind his father’s death. Apparently, Paul (as a child) noticed something strange (nice dress pants on a busboy/hitman) on the night of his father’s assassination. But Paul was angry at his father, so he never spoke up to warn him. Paul’s father was murdered, and Paul is upset, because he never had a chance to say good-bye.

At the meeting, Paul unceremoniously retires, and he reveals Carlo as the traitor. An enraged Primo (with Carlo’s help) confronts Paul outside. Paul tries to walk away, but Primo’s cowardly act (he tried to shoot Paul after he turned his back) sparks a big shoot out. The FBI intervenes to break up the mess, and Ben accidentally saves Paul’s life (Ben took a bullet in the chest for Paul). To end the movie, Ben visits Paul in jail, and Primo is dead after a successful assassination attempt.

It’s a safe finale, but there’s nothing wrong with that. In the end, Paul finds peace, with some jail time as a small price to pay, Primo’s demise is well deserved, and Paul pulled some strings for a personal and live performance from Tony Bennett (Ben is a big fan of Tony Bennett) for Dr. Sobel and Laura. Everyone goes home (with exception of Paul) with a happy handing, and Dr. Sobel returns to a more peaceful life.

The reoccurring routine to pull some laughs out of the audience with the irony of a sobbing Alpha Male (De Niro) feels stale towards the end, but I enjoyed Analyze This overall. It’s a consistently funny mob comedy, with Crystal and De Niro forming a memorable duo to produce 90% of the laughs here. It’s a story about the hotheaded mobster, with a soft side, his unlikely support system (Dr. Sobel), and their adventures together during a series of bizarre mishaps. Analyze This is a rare gem from the modern days of Robert De Niro’s career, and if you’re a fan of his career, Analyze This is worth a try.

Rating: 7/10

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