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Analyze This / Analyze That(1999-2002)
'Analze This' - Paul Vitti, New York gang boss, is suffering from anxiety attacks. Embarrassed by this un- Mafia problem, he seeks help from a psychiatrist, Ben Sobel. Sobel isn't keen to help him, but is persuaded. Vitti's problems threaten to postpone Sobel's wedding in Miami, and worse, there is a Mob conference coming up that Vitti may not be in strong enough psychological shape to attend.
'Analyze That' - Mob boss Paul Vitti is nearing the end of his term in Sing Sing, and the FBI agents monitoring him are baffled. Day after day they watch as New York's most notorious gangland figure walks around his cell in a semi-catatonic stupor, occasionally breaking into songs from West Side Story. Is Vitti having a nervous breakdown because of recent threats on his life by a rival family, or is his odd behavior merely a foxy ploy to get him sprung from jail early? The FBI isn't sure, and neither is his former psychotherapist Ben Sobel, who gets called in to consult on the case. The last time Sobel treated Vitti, he tried to get to the source of his debilitating anxiety attacks, but barely scratched the surface. It will take time to examine the demons still lurking in Vitti's mind and help put him on the straight and narrow--time that Sobel doesn't want to give. The truth is, Sobel has problems of his own. His father has just died, plunging him into an identity crisis in both his personal and professional lives. Furthermore, he knows his wife Laura will be furious if he allows the unpredictable Vitti back into their lives. But when Vitti is granted a conditional release into Sobel's care and custody, becoming his patient again and--even worse--his houseguest, the reluctant psychiatrist finds that he has no choice, a in order to get peace back in his life, he will have to help the troubled gangster sort out his psyche, find gainful employment and go straight--which proves easier said than done!
For more about Analyze This / Analyze That and the Analyze This / Analyze That Blu-ray release, see Analyze This / Analyze That Blu-ray Review published by Kenneth Brown on March 9, 2010 where this Blu-ray release scored 2.5 out of 5.
Starring: Robert De Niro, Billy Crystal, Lisa Kudrow, Joe Viterelli, Chazz Palminteri, Cathy Moriarty
Director: Harold Ramis
This Blu-ray bundle includes the following titles, see individual titles for specs and details:
Analyze This / Analyze That Blu-ray Review
A Ramis twofer is hindered by a mediocre Blu-ray release...
Reviewed by Kenneth Brown, March 9, 2010
It's an age-old question: which came first, David Chase's acclaimed HBO series, The Sopranos, or director Harold Ramis' casting-coup comedy, Analyze This? Sure, one debuted in January of 1999 and the other arrived in theaters in March of the same year, but neither one was made overnight. They share strikingly similar stories and characters -- a rough-n-tumble mob boss begins suffering from panic attacks, struggles with denial and feelings of inadequacy, and reluctantly embraces therapy -- and even explore identical themes. Often, the only thing that separates the two is their tone. But that shouldn't prevent anyone from enjoying Ramis' turn-of-the-century gem; a sharp, smart, and funny R-rated genre pic that manages to play to the strengths of actors Billy Crystal and Robert De Niro, and keep fans laughing well after their first session with the film. Ramis' dull, derivative 2002 sequel, Analyze That, is a lesser comedy altogether, but seeing as Warner's new Blu-ray Double Feature release offers the pair at a two-for-one bargain price, it hardly matters.
After narrowly escaping a hit and realizing how unpredictable his world has become, a ruthless mob boss named Paul Vitti (Robert De Niro) suffers a panic attack and has little choice but to seek psychiatric help. The lucky shrink? Dr. Ben Sobel (Billy Crystal), an easily frightened family man who had the misfortune of giving Vitti's second-in-command, Jelly (Joe Viterelli), a business card. Despite Sobel's reluctance, he agrees to help Vitti, only to learn the aging mafioso isn't interested in hearing anything the good doctor has to say. As Vitti's condition worsens and his demands become increasingly impossible, Sobel's life is turned upside down, affecting his relationship with his high-strung wife (Lisa Kudrow) and son (Kyle Sabihy). Before long, Sobel is whisked away to Miami for impromptu therapy sessions, embroiled in Vitti's clashes with a rival mobster (Chazz Palminteri), and caught between the FBI and his newfound criminal cohorts. So what happens when the doctor begins to believe he can really help the panic-stricken mob boss work through his present troubles? Hilarity ensues, and Sobel finds himself in a position he would have never imagined himself in before he met Vitti.
Analyze This works for a number of reasons, chief among them Billy Crystal and Robert De Niro's breezy chemistry and pitch-perfect banter. They play to their established strengths, sure, but their typecasting actually enhances their encounters rather than diminishing them. Watching Crystal slowly shed his nervous, repressed exterior and emerge from his shell is as entertaining as seeing De Niro viciously poke fun at his made-man schtick. The script itself -- penned by Ramis and screenwriters Peter Tolan and Kenneth Lonergan -- already toys with convention and pits genre against genre, but the spry comedy duo give each line and scenario life, furiously upping the ante as Sobel and Vitti's worlds become one. In retrospect, the mesmerizing six-season arc of The Sopranos makes Analyze This even funnier. Ramis, Crystal, and De Niro make the most of their hour-and-a-half odd coupling, developing an unforgettable bond, infusing Sobel and Vitti's budding relationship with never-ending conflict, and pushing each subsequent gag further and further. Yes, the action and thrills the director shoehorns into the production seem a tad out of place, and yes, Kudrow and her straight-laced ilk are given far too much screentime, but neither one affects the pace and impact of the comedy. At least not too drastically.
If anything, Analyze This is a hair too long as is, and would have benefited from a few more in-office therapy sessions between Sobel and Vitti. The inevitable mob war at the heart of the story culminates in a fantastic third act, but it also forces viewers to follow too many backstreet battles and under-the-table deals before it arrives at its hilarious destination. Moreover, newcomers may not find any of it to be as fresh or inventive as it was ten years ago. Similar comedies and dramas have come and gone, a variety of television series have mined any depths that have been left unexplored, and the mental health of mobsters has been dissected ad nauseum. Still, the film only gets bogged down here and there. For the most part, it clips along without a hitch, taking advantage of unexpected opportunities and delivering a steady stream of laugh-out-loud quips and punchlines. Is it a timeless comedy in the vein of Ramis' best? No, it never reaches the lofty heights of Stripes, Ghostbusters, or Groundhog Day. But it does deserve some attention and, for those who fall in love with its off-kilter, middle-aged bromance, a coveted spot amongst any comedy fan's collection.
As Analyze That opens, Vitti is serving time and, yet again, manages to survive a hit meant to put him out of the game for good. Creating an elaborate hoax, the disheveled mobster tricks Sobel into getting him released from prison so he can undergo intensive psychiatric treatment. Soon, under the watchful eye of the FBI, Vitti begins looking for legitimate employment and lands a gig as an advisor for a mafia-themed television series (the similarities between Analyze This and The Sopranos apparently didn't escape Ramis). But Sobel quickly discovers his old patient doesn't plan on living out his life as an average joe. Orchestrating a big payday (an illegal one, of course), Vitti plans a tricky heist, slips the FBI agents assigned to his case, and inadvertently pulls Sobel into his circle. Sadly, none of it lives up to the first film. The laughs fall painfully flat at times, the story offers few surprises, and Ramis, usually a comic genius, gets lost in ineffective dark humor and Sopranos satire. De Niro and Crystal's on-screen chemistry lacks the spark of the film's 1999 predecessor and, frankly, Ramis fails to prove a sequel was necessary in the first place. It comes across as an uninspired cash-in; a dangerous dip in an empty pool.
It's strange. A Crystal/De Niro reunion must have struck everyone involved as a brilliant move; a surefire sequel bound to excite anyone who adored Analyze This and attract new fans to the fold. But with such an unfocused script, the pair don't have anything to grab hold of. Sobel and Vitti's therapy sessions (the first film's greatest asset) have all but been ejected, recurring supporting characters are underused and underdeveloped, and the redundant mob-vs-mob plotline is a derivative mess. I expected a lot more from Ramis, but even Crystal and De Niro's best efforts are squandered. I didn't care about Vitti's looming heist or his introduction to Hollywood. Sobel struck me as a yapping nuisance rather than the endearing psychiatrist he was in 1999. Even Viterelli's Jelly didn't give me reason to chuckle. They fill their ascribed roles, investing their all into their scenes, but the material they're charged with tackling is so pedestrian that none of it matters. That's not to say Analyze That is devoid of charm -- Vitti's prison antics struck me as particularly amusing -- but as soon as he was released to Sobel's care, little else left me laughing. By the time the mafioso's plan came to fruition, I was yawning and glancing at my clock, wondering when Ramis would finally put his dead-end story out to pasture.
My humble advice? Pretend Analyze That is a glorified special feature -- a generous full-length freebie -- Warner has graciously tacked onto a $15 Blu-ray release of Analyze This. After all, it's one of the only things that adds extra value to an otherwise underwhelming disc.
Analyze This / Analyze That Blu-ray, Video Quality
Even though a full 25GB layer of a BD-50 disc has been devoted to each film, Warner's first Blu-ray Double Feature is undermined by two average 1080p/VC-1 transfers, both of which suffer from a variety of issues. Analyze This certainly offers the warmer image, basking in Stuart Dryburgh's sunlit-Miami hues, inviting interiors, and overwhelming shadows at every turn. Unfortunately, skintones are often oversaturated, delineation is quite poor at times, and detail is all over the place. For every shot that makes a decent impression, serving up crisp textures and clean edges, another suffers from wavering contrast, softness, and a host of technical oddities (everything from artifacting, crush, and minor print damage to noticeable ringing, smearing, and telecine wobble). That's not to say the film looks bad per se, just that it hasn't been given the complete overhaul it would need to really shine in high definition. Granted, the presentation reaps the benefits of its move to Blu-ray -- colors are richer, blacks are much deeper, and the entire film is sharper -- but the vast majority of the anomalies that appear on the standard DVD are still alive and well, albeit in a higher resolution. Ramis fans deserve better.
Analyze That is a different beast entirely. While its video transfer is far more revealing, handily besting Analyze This in terms of overall image clarity, it too fails to do its source justice. Grain is cursed with a harsh, salty consistency that quashes fine detail on occasion, and doesn't lend the picture a filmic disposition; black levels are weak and unreliable, rarely rising beyond charcoal; and rampant mosquito noise, errant artifacting, distracting aliasing, and intermittent ringing are frequent offenders. Still, Ellen Kuras' bleak colors are actually more lifelike than Dryburgh's swarthy palette (at least as presented here), even if the sequel's actors sometimes look as if they've been stranded in the Arctic with nothing but a flashbulb and a prayer. Likewise, as unwieldy as the grain and noise that assaults the picture can be, the Blu-ray edition of Analyze That offers a more obvious upgrade from its standard definition counterpart than Analyze This, and puts its previously released DVD to shame. Analyze enthusiasts still won't sing its praises, but it at least accomplishes more than its bargain-bin pricepoint might suggest.
Analyze This / Analyze That Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Warner's DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround tracks are an improvement, even if they're limited by their corresponding films somewhat limited sound design. Analyze This kicks things off properly: with the best wiseguy narration Robert De Niro can muster, a diatribe the lossless mix presents with authority. Barring a few swampy lines that drown beneath some of the film's slapstick action sequences, dialogue is clear and nicely prioritized, and effects pack a decent punch. The LFE channel doesn't surge as readily as I expected, but it still invests some welcome support into gunshots, falling bodies, and car engines. Similarly, the rear speakers aren't a hotbed of activity, but they do embrace the film's soundtrack and more energetic sequences. Despite its occasional gunplay, ample F-bombs, and R-rated shenanigans, Analyze This is essentially a chatty flick that, more often than not, focuses its attention on Crystal and De Niro's conversations. Directionality isn't enveloping, just adequate; pans aren't invisible, just effective; dynamics aren't startling, just efficient. Suffice to say, audiophiles won't fall out of their seats, but they will appreciate the quality of the track, especially considering how effortlessly it trumps the previously released DVD's murky mix.
Analyze That alters the first film's tone rather dramatically, and Warner's DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track follows suit. Even though the tenor of the mix is a bit colder, voices are just as intelligible, sound effects are just as punctuated, and prioritization is just as precise. Several lines, particularly those that take place in De Niro's private trailer, aren't as clear and pronounced as others, but they're mere hiccups in an otherwise dependable experience. LFE output is fairly strong (at least when That focuses on action and arguments), the rear speakers create a fairly immersive (albeit occasionally two-dimensional) soundfield, separation is passable, and squabbling mobsters have been carefully sprinkled throughout the channels. I was constantly aware that I was watching a film -- music is the most involving aspect of the mix, and the majority of the soundscape and its mafia-related chit-chat makes its nest near the screen -- but the track handles everything its given without succumbing to any glaring technical issues. It isn't going to win serious accolades, not even from the sequel's most ardent fans, but it will earn most listeners' approval.
Analyze This / Analyze That Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Sadly, neither Analyze This nor Analyze That include any supplemental content, despite the fact that their 1999, 2003, and 2007 standard DVD counterparts offer a selection of commentaries and other features. And I have to say, Warner's decision is a strange one. Considering a 25GB layer of a BD-50 disc has been afforded to each film -- leaving more than enough room to squeeze in the aforementioned features -- their absence is frustrating. I certainly appreciate the low price, but not at the cost of a barebones release.
Analyze This / Analyze That Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
I remain unimpressed by Warner's Double Feature releases. The concept is sound -- two flicks for the price of one -- but the execution is lacking. Analyze This and Analyze That haven't been given the ground-up overhaul they deserve, and it shows. Their video transfers are hobbled by persistent technical issues and their DVDs' supplemental packages have been left on the cutting room floor. The Double Feature's lone saving grace is a pair of commendable DTS-HD Master Audio tracks, but the films' sound design is too basic to grant them any sort of wow factor. $15 for two high definition releases isn't unappreciated, I just wish Warner hadn't skimped on the disc's quality to achieve such a low price point. Ah well, I suppose you get what you pay for.
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