Plot: Paul Vitti (Robert De Niro) is an organized crime boss known for his ruthless business practices, but of late, he is not himself and he has suffered some panic attacks, not to mention unstable emotional states. This would concern anyone, but in Vitti’s line of work, any hint of weakness will be pounced on, so he needs to figure out how to get to back to his old self again. Vitti’s right hand man has an idea, as he just met a psychiatrist named Dr. Sobel (Billy Crystal), after a minor fender bender that led to Sobel handing over his business card. Vitti soon calls on Sobel and after sweeping his office for bugs, he reveals his panic attacks and Sobel tries to help, but is anxious himself being around a notorious criminal. Vitti needs to be cured in two weeks for a big meet, while Sobel is about to be married and once they learn of his time with Vitti, federal agents swoop in to use him as a spy. What will happen to Sobel as he tries to balance all of these stressful events and can he give himself the right advice?
Entertainment Value: This mob oriented, odd couple comedy proved to be a hit and even spawned a sequel, but I still find it to be a middle of the road picture. The film’s narrative is passable and keeps the mafia elements prominent, but the real focus is on the two leads. I appreciated the time invested to develop the mobster atmosphere, as that provides De Niro’s Vitti a little depth, so the mafia threads aren’t just thrown in with no purpose. Vitti’s rush to overcome his issues and bury his perceived weaknesses makes sense, since his life is on the line. I think seeing De Niro in this kind of over the top, comedic role is fun, but the material simply isn’t that good in most scenes, watchable but not hilarious. I do think the humor is lightly effective and Analyze This holds attention, it just doesn’t move from mildly amusing to strong laughs, the kind of movie you’d watch on cable, but rarely seek out on your own. The movie also has a good amount of mob style action and shootouts, which keep the tone different from most comedies and soak up some time. I still the movie is a decent comedy, but I wish it had bigger laughs, given the talent involved.
After decades of acclaimed, mostly dramatic work, Robert De Niro would widen his projects and take on some ridiculous comedies, a trend that was kicked off with Analyze This. His Meet the Parents success would truly launch him as a bankable comic star, but before that movie, he played Vitti here, a once cold mobster who was taken with some emotional issues. This is an interesting role, as De Niro is of course a master of the mob role like this one, but here he twists it into a parody of the characters he played and built a career one. His performance is absurd at times, especially when he needs to cry, but you can still see flashes of his serious side. Billy Crystal turns in his usual performance, so the role feels familiar, but he plays of De Niro well and the two elevate the pretty basic material when together. And that is the main draw here, when the leads share the screen and banter back and forth. The cast also includes Lisa Kudrow, Molly Shannon, Joe Viterelli, and Chaz Palminteri. But to be honest, none of the supporting roles are given much to do here.