Filmmaker Harold Ramis (“Caddyshack” “Groundhog Day”) has directed some of the greatest comedies of the last twenty-five years, and although “Analyze That” may not be near the very top of his list, the film still stands as a successful attempt to bring back the laughs and quirkiness laden in his previous “Analyze This.”
Dr. Ben Sobol (Billy Crystal) and his ex-patient Paul Vitti (Robert DeNiro) are reunited when Paul makes a phone call from prison and pleads with Dr. Ben to please meet with him and help get him out. Despite Ben’s reluctance, he concedes and soon finds himself doing all sorts of tests on Paul to determine his mental condition. After the vigorous process of psychological testing, Paul is diagnosed with temporary psychosis. Ben is then shocked to learn that a head FBI agent, who is still scrutinizing Paul’s mobster activities, places Paul in the federal custody of Ben upon Paul’s release. Now Dr. Ben and Paul are once again “stuck” with one another, and moreover, Paul has tricked Ben and everyone else by merely pretending to be crazy.
Crystal and DeNiro have mastered their roles to the finest detail, and it is this ability that makes for the well-timed and evenly paced humor. The interactions between Ben and Paul show how one just can’t “get through” to Paul, yet Paul notices the unhealthy habits that Ben has of his own. For example, Paul points out that Ben has to cut down on the pills he has compulsively been taking whenever he feels stressed.
It is Paul’s unsuccessful attempts to readjust to society and change his ways that generates most of the humor. In one particular sequence, Paul is shown trying his hand at various jobs, including a car salesman, a jewelry salesman and a restaurant host. Ironically, he is then offered a job as a technical consultant on a new mob television show, where he will be checking the accuracy and reality of the actors’ behavior. Of course, this job comes the easiest to him.
Meanwhile, Dr. Ben Sobol is consumed with having to “baby-sit” Paul because it is his responsibility to prevent the boss from returning to his mafia family. His attempts, however, are fruitless. What can a nerdy psychologist do against the power of a strong gang of highly skillful killers? Naturally, very little. However, it is the inevitable friendship between these two very different men that keep them highly involved in each other’s lives. This comes as a greater risk to Ben, of course, especially when his life becomes in danger when he gets involved in an elaborate heist to steal $22 million in gold from the federal depository.
Meanwhile, Ben has a wife (Lisa Kudrow) and a son back home. Kudrow excels in the role; however, the character highly resembles a familiar one for the actress, Phoebe from “Friends.” Her acting fits well with the interactions she has with both Ben and Paul, yet her appearance may cause one to question Kudrow’s ability to embody any other character aside from the well-known Phoebe.
Sequels often have an added pressure to meet audience expectations by being just as good as the first film. That is to say, if the first one was successful at all. “Analyze That,” the sequel to director Ramis’ “Analyze This,” did raise such expectations. For the most part, the film is successful. The characters are still able to provide the audience with many laughs, whether it is watching Paul sing “West Side Story” tunes in prison in an attempt to feign insanity, or seeing Dr. Ben stuff pocket change into a stripper’s garments. The relationship between Dr. Ben and his patient is key to the overall success of the film, and the two fine actors have just the right chemistry to make their scenes hilarious and, more importantly, not let the material bog down in a simple rehashing of the previous crime-comedy’s cleverness.