Film

Analyze That (2002)

Elbert Ventura

To endure Analyze That requires not just suspension of disbelief, but suspension of neurological activity as well.


Analyze That

Director: Harold Ramis
Cast: Robert De Niro, Billy Crystal, Lisa Kudrow, Reg Rogers, Cathy Moriarty-Gentile
MPAA rating: R
Studio: Warner Bros.
First date: 2002
US Release Date: 2002-12-06

Is it possible that Robert De Niro has a quixotic Wellesian masterpiece up his sleeve? An epic of staggering ambition so difficult and meaningful it can only be made guerrilla-style, funded by tainted money from dispiriting movies? How else are we to account for this ignominious record: City By the Sea, Showtime, The Score, 15 Minutes, Men of Honor, Flawless, Ronin, The Fan, Sleepers, and, for the love of god, The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle?

Add to that depressing litany of middling mediocrities and outright disasters Analyze That. This disgrace, a sequel to the surprise 1999 hit, Analyze This, is a rote stomp through tired ground -- in other words, a typical Hollywood sequel. Clearly nothing more than a quick paycheck for the principals, the movie is so inept and inconsequential, I have doubts that even Anthony Lane can salvage any glee from it.

The domestication of La Cosa Nostra continues. Reducing mobsters to cuddly caricature, Analyze This became a hit the year The Sopranos burst onto the scene. Whereas the latter humanized shadowy men, the former was content to demystify them via broad lampoonery. Written by the estimable Kenneth Lonergan (You Can Count on Me), Analyze This was actually an agreeably funny mainstream comedy, doing as much as humanly possible with a one-joke premise.

Almost everyone important from the original is back for the triumphal second helping at the box office trough -- everyone but Lonergan, that is. Truth be told, even his snappy scribing may not have made much of a difference. Up against Harold Ramis's sitcom-level direction, the lazy performances, the painfully contrived plotting, the stale premise and just the pointlessness of it all, mere wit may not have survived.

The sequel finds mobster Paul Vitti (De Niro) holding sway over the denizens of Sing Sing. Vitti soon becomes the target of a couple of attempted whackings. The hits seem to drive the ex-boss mad, giving us the spectacle of De Niro swinging back and forth between Awakenings-style catatonia and dignity-killing musical numbers from West Side Story.

Enter his good old friend and shrink Dr. Ben Sobel (Billy Crystal). Still grieving over the recent death of his father ("It's a process," he explains to everyone, an obvious bit of psychobabble send-up), Sobel becomes entrusted by the FBI with custody of Vitti, for the perfectly logical reason that the sequel must happen. The good doctor tries to help Vitti leave behind the wiseguy lifestyle, but, as is always the case, it keeps pulling him back in.

The movie never strays far from the franchise formula. Most of the gags are predicated on the incongruity of a made man doing mundane things. Conceptually tired, the jokes flounder in execution as well. Smitten by the authentically street Vitti, a producer (Reg Rogers, hands down the most irritating performance of the year) hires him to be a consultant on the set. I suppose I could launch into a disquisition on the film's self-reflexivity and the commodification of the Mafia in American pop culture. However, seeing that the filmmakers didn't even bother thinking about it, I see no reason why I have to waste time doing so myself.

In production notes for the movie, Ramis talked about holding out for a valid idea and screenplay because "there's nothing worse than doing a sequel just to exploit a franchise," all said presumably with a straight face. The slapdash construction, the brainless technique, the uninspired hamming blow his cover, showing just how little the players thought of the project -- and how little the filmmakers thought of its audience. (In the now ubiquitous outtakes sequence over the closing credits, De Niro makes a telling mistake. After a botched exchange with Crystal, someone yells out the correct line, which De Niro promptly acts out -- only it's not his line, but Crystal's.)

The movie painfully goes through the motions of a narrative feature film, and having to sit there and take it occasions some profound metaphysical questions: What am I doing here? Is this movie for real? Can they still call it a comedy if no one laughs? To endure Analyze That requires not just suspension of disbelief, but suspension of neurological activity as well. A true affront to intelligence, the movie is such a wasteland of art and mirth that one has time to keep track of its meager achievements: three laughs (none big), four chuckles, three grins. Ramis was right on one thing: there's nothing worse.

In Americana music the present is female. Two-thirds of our year-end list is comprised of albums by women. Here, then, are the women (and a few men) who represented the best in Americana in 2017.

If a single moment best illustrates the current divide between Americana music and mainstream country music, it was Sturgill Simpson busking in the street outside the CMA Awards in Nashville. While Simpson played his guitar and sang in a sort of renegade-outsider protest, Garth Brooks was onstage lip-syncindg his way to Entertainer of the Year. Americana music is, of course, a sprawling range of roots genres that incorporates traditional aspects of country, blues, soul, bluegrass, etc., but often represents an amalgamation or reconstitution of those styles. But one common aspect of the music that Simpson appeared to be championing during his bit of street theater is the independence, artistic purity, and authenticity at the heart of Americana music. Clearly, that spirit is alive and well in the hundreds of releases each year that could be filed under Americana's vast umbrella.

Keep reading... Show less

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

Keep reading... Show less

This week on our games podcast, Nick and Eric talk about the joy and frustration of killing Nazis in Wolfenstein: The New Order.

This week, Nick and Eric talk about the joy and frustration of killing Nazis in Wolfenstein: The New Order.

Keep reading... Show less

Which is the draw, the art or the artist? Critic Rachel Corbett examines the intertwined lives of two artists of two different generations and nationalities who worked in two starkly different media.

Artist biographies written for a popular audience necessarily involve compromise. On the one hand, we are only interested in the lives of artists because we are intrigued, engaged, and moved by their work. The confrontation with a work of art is an uncanny experience. We are drawn to, enraptured and entranced by, absorbed in the contemplation of an object. Even the performative arts (music, theater, dance) have an objective quality to them. In watching a play, we are not simply watching people do things; we are attending to the play as a thing that is more than the collection of actions performed. The play seems to have an existence beyond the human endeavor that instantiates it. It is simultaneously more and less than human: more because it's superordinate to human action and less because it's a mere object, lacking the evident subjectivity we prize in the human being.

Keep reading... Show less
3

Gabin's Maigret lets everyone else emote, sometimes hysterically, until he vents his own anger in the final revelations.

France's most celebrated home-grown detective character is Georges Simenon's Inspector Jules Maigret, an aging Paris homicide detective who, phlegmatically and unflappably, tracks down murderers to their lairs at the center of the human heart. He's invariably icon-ified as a shadowy figure smoking an eternal pipe, less fancy than Sherlock Holmes' curvy calabash but getting the job done in its laconic, unpretentious, middle-class manner.

Keep reading... Show less
5
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image