Over 'Analyzed'

Robert De Niro returns as the mobster who confides in his longsuffering psychiatrist, played by Billy Crystal

"Analyze This" opened in 1999, just weeks after "The Sopranos" reached TV with a similar idea: What if a crime boss had a psychotherapist who got to hear the troubles - and secrets - cached away in his secretive mind?

As a series with lots of subplots, "The Sopranos" is able to explore this notion more interestingly than a single movie could. But the film found success on the strength of snappy comic writing and solid performances by Robert De Niro as the mobster and Billy Crystal as his longsuffering psychiatrist.

The sequel, "Analyze That," features the same reverse casting, again using comedian Crystal as the straight man and serious actor De Niro as the buffoon.

This idea has lost its originality, though, and neither star appears very excited at rehashing what was basically a one-joke picture.

Like many sequels that require a key character who's been killed or sent up the river, "Analyze That" starts with a credibility problem. How are we supposed to believe jailed psychopath Paul Vitti is out of the slammer and seeing Dr. Ben Sobel again for therapy? Would the cops really release him into Sobel's custody, making the hapless shrink responsible for his every move?

Yes, according to the far-fetched screenplay. Nor has the boisterous gangster toned down his act.

He's as rude and crude as ever, grossing out everyone from his keeper's dinner guests to the patrons of the businesses where he tries to land a normal job.

The movie tries a few new twists, most notably when Vitti becomes the technical adviser on a TV series - called "Little Caesar," probably meant as a "Sopranos" satire.

It's a game attempt to freshen the "Analyze" franchise, but this portion of the story is among the weakest of them all.

According to Warner Bros. Studios, filmmaker Harold Ramis developed out the sequel after reading about psychiatrists who've discussed "The Sopranos" in clinical terms, wondering if a patient could be cured of antisocial behavior without losing essential aspects of personality and identity.

While that's an interesting question, there's no on-screen evidence that Ramis pondered it for more than a few seconds before getting to work on more slapstick jokes and four-letter punch lines.

Crystal fares better than De Niro in the acting department, giving Sobel a sense of dignity that makes him slightly less cartoonish than the other characters.

De Niro mugs and prances - two things he's not very good at - and Lisa Kudrow does her best with the underwritten role of Sobel's wife.

But let's look at the bright side. If this movie bombs as it deserves to, we won't have to sit through "Analyze Those" a few years from now!

Rated R; contains violence and foul language.

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