NEW YORK — Mobsters are running off to psychotherapists, at least in the mass media. "The Sopranos" started exploiting this idea first on HBO television, and now the wide screen is catching up via "Analyze This," a comedy that offers plenty of laughs if you can stomach occasional violence and streams of language as foul as a Mafioso's business agenda.
Robert De Niro plays Paul Vitti, a New York gangster with a vulnerable streak. He wants to be as rough and tough as the other hoods in his family, but lately his vulnerability has gotten out of control, and people are starting to talk.
So his henchman fixes him up with Ben Sobol, a psychiatrist he literally bumps into, and soon this unwilling therapist played by Billy Crystal is up to his neck in revelations, confidences, and confessions. Complicating the situation further is Ben's impending marriage to a ditsy reporter who wishes he could find a higher class of patients, as if he had any choice about the matter once Paul decides he's the greatest shrink in the city.
This is an amusing idea, and the stars have a field day with their odd-couple characters, playing them to the hilt in a neatly matched pair of virtuoso performances. First-rate support comes from Joe Viterelli, who's been playing mobsters and henchmen so long that the role of a dumb bodyguard seems cut to order for him, and Chazz Palminteri, who plays a rival mobster with his patented blend of menace and magnetism. A special nod goes to the marvelous Lisa Kudrow for the wired-up wonderment she brings to the psychiatrist's bewildered fiance.
The picture was directed by comedy specialist Harold Ramis, who never reaches the heights of his "Groundhog Day" or "National Lampoon's Vacation" but keeps the action flowing at an energetic clip.
* Rated R; contains violence and extremely vulgar language.