At the Movies: ‘Analyze That’

AP Movie Writer

LOS ANGELES (AP) – There’s a real sense of been there, analyzed that to Robert De Niro, Billy Crystal and Harold Ramis’ second mobster-in-therapy comedy.

“Analyze That,” the sequel to the 1999 hit “Analyze This,” is a tired and forced farce that could scarcely have been less creative had a gang of wiseguys kidnapped Ramis and co-writers Peter Steinfeld and Peter Tolan and compelled them to write something funny at gunpoint.

Preposterously contrived, this couch-potato trip banks solely on the comic clash of its mismatched leads, but Crystal’s neurotic blathering and De Niro’s latest spoof of his menacing persona fail them in the absence of anything fresh or witty about the story.

As reheated leftovers go, “Analyze That” will provide a handful of broad, cheap laughs for those who relished the original and just want a second session of De Niro mocking De Niro and Crystal being Crystal.

Absurd as the premise behind these comedies is, “Analyze That” still strains credulity with an opening sequence in which imprisoned mob boss Paul Vitti (De Niro) feigns lunacy to get free and strike back against rivals on the outside who are trying to snuff him.

Inexplicably, the feds decide that releasing a bloodthirsty, demented mobster into the keeping of his twitchy ex-analyst Ben Sobel (Crystal) will somehow help them bust up organized crime in New York City.

Early on, De Niro goes over the top trying to stretch his newfound comic flair as Vitti puts on a show to convince Ben and the prison shrinks that he’s a nutcase. Let’s just say the sight of De Niro bellowing tunes from “West Side Story” in a padded cell is not pretty.

Once Vitti’s sprung, the hoodlum and the therapist settle into a dreary retread of their “Analyze This” dynamic, Vitti acting out, Sobel freaking out.

Key players return from the first movie, including Joe Viterelli as Vitti’s teddy-bearish bodyguard and Lisa Kudrow, whose caustic wit is wasted this time in a diminished role as Sobel’s reproachful wife.

The movie reunites De Niro with his “Raging Bull” co-star Cathy Moriarty-Gentile as a mob widow who’s taken over the family since Vitti went to the big house, but the scenes they share are purely pedestrian.

Under the guise of going straight, Vitti tries his hand at regular jobs – car salesman, jewelry clerk, restaurant host. He eventually lands a gig as consultant to a “Sopranos”-like TV show, and its set becomes his staging area to reunite his gang for a caper (Anthony LaPaglia appears in an uncredited role as star of the TV series).

Director Ramis has talked high-mindedly of wanting to explore morality and redemption as a murderous criminal flirts with the straight life.

Little of that winds up on screen, though. “Analyze That” mainly offers a string of flimsy comic sketches and repetitive chatter.

“You, you’re good,” Vitti tells Sobel several times in a reprise from the first movie. And it’s not funny the first time Sobel mutters, “Grieving, it’s a process,” let alone the sixth.

“Analyze That,” a Warner Bros. release, runs 95 minutes. Two stars out of four.