Analyze This [1999]

Cast Robert De Niro and Billy Crystal together in a film and it should be a sucker's bet as to who's going to be funnier and who's going to give the more nuanced performance. Somehow, though, De Niro walks away with most of the laughs in Analyze This, a buddy action-comedy about a mob boss (De Niro, natch) suffering from panic attacks who makes a nebbishy shrink (Crystal, natch) an offer he can't refuse--actually, it's not really an offer, it's a command. The good doctor is forced to help the gangster get in touch with his feelings. Had the brilliant TV series The Sopranos not underscored how thin and watery and shticky director-cowriter Harold Ramis's approach to such potentially rich material actually is, the movie--a hit in theaters and De Niro's biggest film ever--would seem more fresh and kicky. De Niro's definitely a hoot as the ever milder menace, and Crystal actually concentrates on giving a credible performance opposite the acting legend (alas, he doesn't turn his character's fear of his patient into inspired comedy, as Alan Arkin did in Grosse Pointe Blank). The conclusion devolves into the requisite gunplay, and Chazz Palminteri and Lisa Kudrow are criminally wasted as an opposing mob boss and Crystal's fiancée, respectively, but overall, it's breezy fun. --David Kronke

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