Analyze This

(1999) *** R
103 min. Warner Bros. Pictures Distribution. Director: Harold Ramis. Cast: Billy Crystal, Robert De Niro, Lisa Kudrow, Chazz Palminteri, Bill Macy.

/content/films/3700/1.jpgThey don't come much schtickier than Analyze This, the all-out comedy version of the same premise that powered The Sopranos through six highly rated seasons. The idea of a mafia don (played by Robert De Niro, no less) getting anxiety attacks and subsequently hijacking a psychiatrist (king of schtick Billy Crystal) to treat him is pure sitcom. But thanks to three very strong writers—Kenneth Lonergan (You Can Count on Me), Peter Tolan (Rescue Me) and Harold Ramis (Ghostbusters)—and the willpower of its leads, Analyze This turns out to be an amusing piffle.

When organized crime boss Paul Vitti (De Niro) starts having what appear to be heart attacks but turn out to be stress-related panic attacks, he becomes an object of concern, not least to his dim-bulb lieutenant Jelly (Joe Viterelli of Bullets Over Broadway). When Jelly has a literal run-in with psychiatrist Ben Sobol (Crystal), Jelly figures it's kismet: this is the man who can save his boss. Before you can say, "Badabing, badaboom," Vitti is sitting across from Sobol, smoldering with discomfort (Vitti makes the shrink perch himself on the couch, taking the chair for himself). Though the Oedipus complex is dismissed as perverse smut by Vitti, ben rapidly diagnoses Paul's anger issues, daddy issues, and legitimate fears for himself and his family as rivals (most notably Chazz Palminteri of A Bronx Tale) circle his throne like sharks. Ben's ability to help Paul make breakthroughs earn the doc a big smile from his patient, an approving finger wag, and the barely-spoken compliment "You." But with the door to his psyche left ajar, Paul soon becomes a slave to spontaneous crying jags that make Bert Lahr's Cowardly Lion seem like a paragon of restraint.

Naturally, the psychiatrist has issues of his own, compounded by the stress of his new patient. Like Paul, Ben has daddy issues, brought on by his smugly successful pop (veteran Bill Macy). Ben also has an adolsecent son (Kyle Sabihy) to worry about, and an impatient fiancee (Lisa Kudrow). Everything that can go wrong does, leading to a climax that features Crystal breaking into an Oscars-style comic monologue that's utterly implausible but entertaining nonetheless. Other lapses in logic make it difficult to take Analyze This seriously, but director Ramis knows he's dealing strictly with pop psychology and that laughs must always come first. The results are cartoonish, but not much more so than The Sopranos, which is hardly a paragon of realism. 

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Aspect ratios: 1.78:1

Number of discs: 1

Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1

Street date: 2/23/2010

Distributor: Warner Home Video

In inaugurating its line of Double-Feature Blu-rays, Warner has chosen Analyze This and Analyze That as a couple of the flagship titles, united on a single disc. The budget-priced disc includes none of the previously issued special features, unfortunately. The hi-def transfer of Analyze This improves on the earlier DVD, but it won't win the hearts of hi-def enthusiasts. It's clear that a new transfer hasn't been struck, so old-school issues like telecine wobble and print damage are more evident than usual for the hi-def format. Digital artifacts are evident, softness is an intermittently distracting problem, and contrast is inconsistent. Still, the transfer captures the warm color scheme and has moments of surprising clarity. The disc's value will depend on interest in the films and whether or not the purchase is a double-dip, but the mild picture upgrade and nice price will be an attractive prospect to many building their Blu-ray libraries.

Review gear:
Panasonic Viera TC-P55VT30 55" Plasma 1080p 3D HDTV
Oppo BDP-93 Universal Network 3D Blu-ray Disc Player
Denon AVR2112CI Integrated Network A/V Surround Receiver
Pioneer SP-BS41-LR Bookshelf Speaker (2)
Pioneer SP-C21 Center Speaker
Pioneer SW-8 Subwoofer

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