Analyze This

Analyze This (1999)
Warner Home Video
Cast: Billy Crystal, Robert DeNiro, Lisa Kudrow, Joe Viterelli, Chazz Palminteri
Extras: Commentary Tracks, ”Gag Reel” Segment, Theatrical Trailer

"Analyze This" has first caught my attention when I saw the trailer for the film’s theatrical run, showing a crying Robert DeNiro with his heavy Italian-tinged mob accent. "Hold on," I thought to myself, "this can’t be right…" But right it was and it has since turned out that "Analyze This" was one of the funniest comedies of the year and indeed brings us world-class actor Robert DeNiro alongside Billy Crystal in a true comedic part. It is an interesting mix that should immediately get people’s attention, but if you bring Harold Ramis as the writer and director of the film in the picture it has to be obvious to everyone that this is a must-see event. Warner Home Video is now presenting "Analyze This" in a DVD release that will give you the chance to literally get into the heart of the mob from the safety of your living room.

Mobster Paul Vitti (Robert DeNiro) is following in the footsteps of his father and generations before him, heading the family. Times are tough and the fights between the individual families don’t make things easier when they wash the streets with blood. But Vitti has a problem, and he can’t talk about it. He has a heart and a soul. He is soft inside, hurting and always painfully concerned about himself, his friends and his family. He can’t even hurt or shoot people as he’s expected to, being the head of a racketeering clan. One day he decides it’s time to see a psychiatrist and his right-hand man Jelly (Joe Viterelli) hands him the business card of Ben Sobel (Billy Crystal), a small time family shrink who has more than enough problems of his own. Vitti seeks out Sobel and asks for help. Consulting a mobster to become a happy, well-adjusted gangster is not exactly what the doctor had envisioned during his wedding vacation, but who’s going to tell the biggest mobster in town that his time is up? Vitti makes it clear to Sobel that he has to listen and help or otherwise… And so the two develop a relationship that takes the psychiatrist behind the scenes of the mob while Vitti is battling his inner demons and eventually has a break-through emotional experience – at the worst time possible.

What makes "Analyze This" stand out among other comedies is the fact that it brings a lot of credibility to the table from the get-go. We all have seen DeNiro in his phenomenal portrayals of cold-blooded mobsters, killers and maniacs, and without further explanation we buy into the fatalistic premise that he is heading a Mafia ‘family’. But when he starts showing his feelings "Analyze This" turns into a remarkable self-parody that never gets shallow. The characters remain very realistic, dangerous and dimensional, and writer and director Harold Ramis manages to also add amusing elements to these personalities that create a stark contrast to their public images. In the end you find yourself watching a film that is as intelligent and funny as it can get. The reason it works is that many of the characters in the film are played perfectly straight and dead serious while being intrinsically funny. Mobster Primo Sindone, magnificently played by Chazz Palminteri, for example tries to find a movie to watch in a theater and mutters "…all they have is this shoot-em-up action bullshit. I get enough of that at work…" In another scene he instructs one of his bodyguards "You get a dictionary and find out what this closure is. If that’s what he wants to hit us with, I want to know what it is." It is this kind of sarcastic observation and dead-on mockery that make "Analyze This" such a refreshing experience. But even your dumb folded characters like Jelly who is played by a great Joe Viterelli have a layer of realism and personality that makes them appear very human.

"Analyze This" is beautifully photographed using very atmospheric interiors and authentic outdoors to create the lush settings for the film. It never feels overblown, always stays organic and absolutely believable. Vitti has a lot of money, yes, but you can still see that he’s living in his house and that it is not a stylized and sterile homeowner’s showcase often found in Hollywood productions. The framing is beautifully chosen at all times, paying attention to minute details in all shots. Warner Home Video have included both a <$PS,pan & scan> version of the film on this DVD, as well as a <$16x9,16x9 enhanced> <$PS,widescreen> version that restores the movie’s original 1.85:1 aspect ratio. The transfer is simply outstanding and has reference quality. There is not the slightest noise, grain or deficiency visible in the print and the compression is absolutely flawless. No artifacting of any kind is evident in this stellar presentation, creating a sharp and clear image that is never over-emphasized. The disc’s color reproduction is also absolutely fantastic with deep black and good highlights, creating a balanced and absolutely natural looking picture. Even under difficult circumstances the image always maintains a very good level of detail and shadow definition, while also rendering fleshtones very faithfully. I am almost tempted to say the film looks better on DVD than it did in theaters due to the complete lack of any film related signs of wear.

Presented in a <$5.1,5.1 channel> <$DD,Dolby Digital> soundtrack, "Analyze This" also manages to create a very lively sonic atmosphere that is completely realistic. Surrounds are used to good effect in a number of scenes and for the most part help enhance the ambient sonic floor for the film. The mix is well done and also makes good use of the low end of the spectrum with dynamic punches enhancing the action scenes and the numerous gunplay sequences in the film.

"Analyze This" contains a great score by Howard Shore, which is spiced up with numerous jazz pieces by Louis Prima and Tony Bennett. They blend perfectly with Shore’s work that glues the film together. The music score is nicely arranged and serves perfectly to create the intimate atmosphere for the film with a slight touch of melancholy.

As special features the disc contains two separate <$commentary,commentary track>s. The first one features writer/director Harold Ramis in a very exhaustive discussion of the film that reveals much of his intention and the level of detail put into the film. It is a very interesting commentary that lets the viewer partake in the filmmaking process and clearly shows how people like Ramis go about their material. The second commentary features Billy Crystal and Robert DeNiro in his first audio <$commentary,commentary track> ever! While this track is generally interesting and exciting it contains a few gaps that inhibit the overall flow of the commentary a bit. You will nevertheless hear some great stories and anecdotes in this track and it is without a doubt always a pleasure to hear people like Crystal and DeNiro talk about their work.

"Analyze This" is wickedly funny and it is wickedly intelligent. Without slapstick, the film works purely on an intellectual level, toying with clichés and familiar stereotypes to create its may funny moments. The dialogue is some of the best written in the past years and it makes you cling to the actors’ mouths in anticipation of what it could be they say next, and especially the delivery of those lines is remarkable. Not in a long time have I enjoyed a new comedy as thoroughly as this one. It is a milestone achievement and to me it is an instant classic alongside films like "Young Frankenstein" and "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels". You simply cannot afford to miss this release or you clearly miss out on the most cleverly written comedy in years – short and simple!