Ben Sobel, a New York psychiatrist, literally runs into trouble when he hits the back of a Mafia staff car, exposing an unwilling passenger and getting himself a new client in the process. A blackish comedy directed by Harold Ramis, who brought us Groundhog Day, and played with considerable finesse by Billy Crystal (in the best role he’s had for ages) and Robert De Niro.
USA 1999, 103 minutes
Paul Vitti is suffering from a mid-life crisis. Business has been hit by recession, he’s got an important meeting coming up, he’s suffering panic attacks, he’s haunted by the death of his father and he’s convinced people are out to get him. He’s probably right; he is a Mafia boss, after all. He consults Ben Sobel, a New York psychiatrist in the Woody Allen mould. Ben’s reluctant – this wasn’t quite what he had in mind when he went in for family therapy – but is soon at Vitti’s beck and call, exciting the curiosity of both the Feds and a rival gang boss.
Analyze This has been rather cruelly dubbed Plagiarize This because of the resemblance of its basic premise to The Sopranos. But it’s a different animal, less subtle and played more for laughs – and there are lots of those. Much of the comedy stems from the confrontation between the nervous Jewish shrink and the overbearing Italian-American gang boss, with his invincible ignorance and strict, twisted morals, who can make even praise sound menacing. Vitti is familiar territory for Robert De Niro, who gives a strong comic performance that’s still unmistakably De Niro, contrasting with Billy Crystal’s nicely underplayed Ben. They are well served by a strong supporting cast.
Harold Ramis has produced a beautifully paced comedy where the fun comes naturally from the characters and situation. And as with his earlier film, Groundhog Day, the laughs are underpinned with an awareness of the absurdities of life and a certain quiet desperation.
Paul Vitti: Robert de Niro
Ben Sobel: Billy Crystal
Laura: Lisa Kudrow
Jelly: Joe Viterelli
Michael Sobel: Kyle Sabihy
Director: Harold Ramis
Producers: Paula Weinstein, Jane Rosenthal
Screenplay: Peter Tolan, Harold Ramis, Kenneth Lonergan
Photography: Stuart Dryburgh
“What a surprise!”
“Brilliant – but can we have sub-titles next time!”
“A good laugh….you —–!”
“Good fun – Bullets over Broadway meets the Sopranos”
“Four funerals and a wedding….”
“Good – perhaps we’ll let them keep (their) independence after all!”