The Mob Couple
"Analyze This" has a lot of good things going for it, the comedy of a mob boss suffering panic attacks is amusing, the casting or Billy Crystal as a shrink is spot on and the humour from situations rather than set piece gags is the right way to go. But there is one thing, in fact one person which really makes "Analyze This" come together and that is Robert De Niro. So linked to the mob genre is De Niro that he adds something extra to the movie, something which makes it funnier than if we just had just anyone playing mob boss Paul Vitti. It also helps that De Niro and Crystal work brilliantly together, sparking off of each other making every joke work.
It's been decades since all the Mafia families met and with there being trouble a meeting is arranged. Unfortunately for mob boss Paul Vitti (Robert De Niro - Wag the Dog) this meeting has come at a bad time as he is suffering from panic attacks and between being overly emotional and breaking down he's in no fit state to face up to the other heads of the families. So his right hand man Jelly (Joe Viterelli) puts him in touch with shrink Dr. Ben Sobel (Billy Crystal - Forget Paris) who he quite literally ran into. The thing is that not only does being forced to treat Paul make Ben very nervous he has also got other things on his mind as he is due to marry his girlfriend Laura (Lisa Kudrow).
Now to be honest comedies about mob bosses had been done before when "Analyze This" came out so it wasn't an original concept and there is part of this movie which isn't original. What I am on about is the part which is fish out of water as shrink Ben Sobel finds himself not only treating a mob boss but sucked in this world of shiny suits and FBI trails. As such there is an element to "Analyze This" which is familiar and the humour of Ben trying to act all gangster-ish whilst amusing isn't that unexpected.
But the fish out of water element is only part of what makes "Analyze This" fun as we also get the element of Paul Vitti not only suffering from panic attacks but also trying to deal with them by seeing Ben. And this side works for the simple reason we have Robert De Niro playing Paul Vitti, drawing on not only elements of characters he's played before but other recognizable mob characters to make one very amusing character. But here is the thing, rather than De Niro turning Vitti into just a comical character he plays it for the most straight and so it is the way he reacts to the situations which make it funny; such as when Ben brings up the possibility of him having an Oedipus complex the outrage and disgust at the suggestion is pure comedy gold especially with Crystal nervously trying to defuse the situation.
And that is the other reason why "Analyze This" works, not just the casting of Billy Crystal as a shrink, although he is perfect, but because the interaction between him and De Niro is spot on. It boils down to the timing and there is a naturalness to the way they spark off of each other which makes not only the humour feel natural but also makes it all work. You almost get a sense that at times De Niro and Crystal were adlibbing, just delivering what felt right than the script and if that is the case it most certainly makes it better.
Now whilst De Niro and Crystal are the stars and it is there partnership which makes "Analyze This" as enjoyable as it is there is one other person who helps bring so much fun to the proceedings. That person is the sadly departed Joe Viterelli as Jelly, now he may just be Vitti's main heavy but the calmness in the way he does and says things whilst looking every ounce a stereotypical wise guy is as funny as anything that Crystal and De Niro do. In many ways Viterelli is as important as De Niro and Crystal in making "Analyze This" work and he certainly doesn't disappoint playing straight but being funny in doing so.
What this all boils down to is that "Analyze This" is one of the better comedy gangster movies, it has that expected fish out of water element but it adds something extra to it to make it much funnier. But it is also the casting not just of Billy Crystal but also Robert De Niro and Joe Viterelli who make pretty much every second of "Analyze This" work.