Robert De Niro appeared in THE GODFATHER II, so he might be forgiven for thinking that all sequels are at least the equal, if not the better, of the original. Billy Crystal’s sequel to CITY SLICKERS, CURLEY’S GOLD, didn’t embarrass anyone, and so, he, too, might conclude that sequels are never an insult to the original, or a waste of an audience’s time. And yet, once they both saw the script for ANALYZE THAT, the insipid sequel to the pretty funny ANALYZE THIS, one has to wonder what they were thinking. It is, to be generous, a pale and languid thing that rarely rises to the level of mildly amusing as characters with essentially nothing to do putter about on screen filling up the requisite 90 minutes or so that feature films require.
We return to these characters with Paul Vitti (De Niro), former mob boss, dutifully paying his debt to society at Sing Sing. It’s not all bad. He’s pretty much running the place and there’s even talk of parole. Unfortunately, there’s a mob war raging back in New York City and some of those involved want Vitti dead. No slouch, Vitti feigns mental illness by singing tunes from WEST SIDE STORY, stopping only for bouts of catatonia. Naturally, the Feds call in Dr. Ben Sobel (Crystal), who treated Vitti for his anxiety when he was on the outside. Even more naturally, Sobel wants nothing more to do with Vitti, what with the lawbreaking and gunplay and almost certain bodily harm that comes with that territory. But the Feds make Sobel an offer he can’t refuse, which works only because having it work is the lynchpin of getting this film plot in motion. So before you can say fugeddaboutit, Sobel is declared a Federal institution and Vitti is in his custody out there in the burbs to the chagrin of Sobel’s clever cookie of a wife, Laura, played again by the sharp as a tack Lisa Kudrow.
De Niro attacks the role with all the zest and conviction of a man flossing his teeth. Rather that rise above the material, something one of his silk suits could do just by hanging in a dark closet, he chooses to mug his way through the tired jokes. Crystal, back as the shrink with his own set of anxieties, doesn’t do much more than walk through, though an occasional glint of wit escapes. Kudrow, who, like De Niro and Crystal, is so much better than the material offered, does milk a smile or two as she dresses down an FBI agent for not quite dressing for success, but eventually reverts to her Phoebe character from television’s “Friends,” if only because the worst day of writing on that show is head, shoulders, and kneecaps above this script. Said script presents us with such rollicking set pieces as Vitti flashing a group of elderly women at Sobel’s house, Vitti and his girlfriend waking the household with their energetic coupling, Vitti observing that sushi looks like bait. Vitti being aghast to learn that the lead actor of a hit LITTLE CAESAR, a series about the mob (read THE SOPRANOS on HBO), is actually from Australia and when he is informed that there are paisanos Down Under, too, his retort is “Under what?” Writers Peter Steinfeld, director Harold Ramis (who also directed ANALYZE THIS), and Peter Tolan (who co-wrote ANALYZE THIS with Kenneth Lonergan and Ramis), obviously thought this would somehow inspire gales of merry laughter and the idea of that is just too depressing to discuss further.
As the plot flails ever more desperately, we get a mob hit, a double-cross, and a singularly lackluster heist that requires Crystal to drop a gun down his pants and then try to retrieve it. Trust me, the telling is better than the seeing.
The ending seeks to tug at our heartstrings, and yet does something a bit more painful a whole lot lower and to the rear of the abdomen.