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"Analyze That" Movie Review
Same Old Thing But Still Entertaining

Billy Crystal and Robert De Niro in "Analyze That."
©2002 Warner Bros. Pictures

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So you've got a successful film under your belt, it made loads of money, audiences loved it, and the stars had a good time filming it. What to do, what to do...? Ah yes, a sequel. And not just any sequel - no, that would be too easy. Let's tag this one with a cutesy sounding name that plays off of the original's. This could be bad - very bad. But it's not. "Analyze That" avoids the dreaded sequelitis and actually improves on the original.

There's no time wasted in establishing the characters as "Analyze This" had to do. In this go-around, we're plopped straight into the plot. Mob boss Paul Vitti (Robert De Niro) is serving time in Sing Sing where it's made apparent there's someone on the outside who would like to see him swimming with the fishes. After a failed attempt on his life leaves him in a semi-comatose state, followed by periods of euphoria in which he breaks out singing show tunes from "West Side Story," the FBI is left scratching their collective heads. Is he faking it or is Vitti experiencing a serious break from reality?

There's only one man who knows the ins and outs of Vitti's mind, and that one man, Ben Sobel (Billy Crystal), is going through a serious personal crisis of his own. His revered and emotionally detached father has just passed away, leaving him with unresolved issues. When the FBI reaches out and touches him, it's at his father's funeral during one of the most inopportune times imaginable. The FBI makes Sobel an offer he can't refuse and after a little legal arm-twisting, Vitti is remanded into Sobel's custody - and into Sobel's home. This housing situation doesn't sit well with the Sobel family, but when you're stuck between a mob boss and the FBI, there's really not much you can do.

Vitti's conditional release into Sobel's custody has specific requirements, including one that proves to be next to impossible - Vitti must go straight and get a real job. Fuhgeddaboutit! He can't sell cars, jewelry stores prove to be too much of a temptation, and he hasn't got the temperament for working as a host in a restaurant. Fortunately for Vitti there is one job out there that he's well suited for and which allows him the freedom to reacquaint himself with his 'family.' Vitti gets a job as a consultant on a TV series based on the mob (picture “The Sopranos” but with Anthony LaPaglia in James Gandolifini's role). The combination of a legitimate job and all his old friends hanging around the set prompts the FBI and Sobel to question whether Vitti is truly changing his ways and walking the straight and narrow, or is it all just a cover for some new illegal scheme? I won't spoil the fun by telling you the answer.

“Analyze That” is just plain entertaining. The cast is obviously having fun and they don't mind letting the audience in on the joke, without any overt nod-nod, wink-winks. Robert De Niro and Billy Crystal fire on all cylinders, once again working surprisingly well off of each other despite their diametrically opposed acting styles. Everything between these two onscreen feels natural, comfortable and familiar. Joe Viterelli returns as Jelly, one of the most memorable sidekicks from “Analyze This.” Lisa Kudrow (“Friends”) also returns as Ben's wife, Laura. In this sequel, Kudrow makes Laura into much more of a three-dimensional character than she was given the opportunity to do in the first movie. But truthfully, the movie is all Crystal and De Niro - as it should be. These two know how to work an audience and in “Analyze That,” every scene they share is pure gold.

Overall Grade: B - The last 10-15 minutes dropped "Analyze That" to a B-, but the outtakes during the credits bumped it back up to a B.

"Analyze That" is rated R for language and some sexual content.

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