APRIL 1999 | VOL. 3, NO. 4


FEATURES | Analyze This

Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels
She's All That

ALSO | Tribute to Stanley Kubrick

LAST | Oscar Fervor
LAST | Shakespeare In Love


Short Takes
Grading from A-F

I was lucky enough to see this wonderful film seven months ago when it weas first released in England. Now, it holds the title as the top grossing movie in English history and deservedly so. A British Pulp Fiction, the story follows a twisted plot of drugs, robbery, hit men and unpaid gambling debts all tied together perfectly by a pair of antique rifles. The action scenes are vivid and exciting. The dialogue, although slightly difficult to understand (there are subtitles in one scene) is extremely witty and pointed. Like Pulp Fiction the ending brings together many seemingly unrelated plot devices into a tight bundle of irony and cheekiness.

For what on the surface seems contrite and overdone, this movie was a pleasant surprise. Forgive the writers for taking the easy way out in may scenes and enjoy the characters' chemistry and underlying current of teenage anxiety. Much of the film plays out by the Hollywood blueprint for romance, but there are enough twists and quirkyness to even out the balance.

- Kevin Ridolfi



  Analyze This

Rating: A-
Starring Billy Crystal, Robert De Niro, Lisa Kudrow, Joseph Viterelli. Directed by Harold Ramis. Rated R. Running Time: 110 minutes.


"Analyze This" is a very successful comedy that manages to comment on what seems to be every possible intersection between the mob, movies about the mob, and psychiatry. The premise alone is enough to make any moviegoer think up their own little jokes. I half expected the line: "I've got your analysis right here" in the movie, yet it wasn't. And that's what makes this movie work for a solid 90% of the time, original and very funny scenes that maximize the use of this premise. The success of "Analyze This" is much like another Harold Ramis directed movie, "Groundhog Day" where the main character is forced to relieve one day over and over and over, yet the comedy is sustained very adeptly.

It is impossible to encapsulate De Niro's acting career here, but it is highly varied. De Niro has had roles with comedic flourishes, dramatic roles with touches of humor that served the dramatization of his character. The two time Oscar winner (supporting actor for "Godfather II" and actor for "Raging Bull") has occasionally had roles that were more comedy oriented ("Midnight Run", "The King of Comedy", "Jacknife", "Mad Dog and Glory", "We're No Angels"). But this is the first time he has attempted a full blown comedic role. That he succeeds so effectively is a testament to his ability as an actor.

And consider the history. De Niro has starred in a series of films about the mob (Casino, GoodFellas, Mean Streets), classic films that are populated with incomparable characters. Whether it's the truth about the mob, who knows? But the point is that stories about the mafia or the mob is a gold mine to investigate conflict, loyalty, and betrayal. De Niro has effectively processed these themes into a comedic role, changing them, tweaking them, still delivering a powerhouse performance, a wonderful comedic one.

It would be interesting to know who was on the short list for this role, and there probably isn't anyone aside from Joe Pesci, ("My Cousin Vinny") who could have played this role. Yet Pesci always plays a dangerous sociopath in his memorable roles and uses humor as an expression of that pathology, principally sending a mixed message. In Goodfellas, he would be joking one minute, then he's cutting up someone's face. What makes this role work for De Niro is that he is still playing a tough guy you don't want to cross, and the way he can show admiration and displeasure within seconds of each other is a large element of the humor. When he really insists that Crystal has a gift he means it, and it is not advised to disagree with him too strongly.

Even the one scene where De Niro, playing the head of the Vitti family, has one of his patented explosive scenes, results after his frustrating attempt to understand a rival don's (Chazz Palminteri) "feelings"and "concerns" at the behest of Crystal. De Niro's classic expression of anger is played for laughs and is hilarious. De Niro is so good in this role that Billy Crystal essentially plays his straight man, and the funniest scenes are when he is reacting to what De Niro is saying or trying to explain himself.

In addition, the supporting role by Joseph Viterelli, (The Firm) as De Niro's loyal soldier, is uproarious, and the second major acting surprise in the movie on par with Bronson Pinchot's role as Serge in "Beverly Hills Cop". As the self admitted moron, he steals scenes from everyone in the film and draws big laughs as he explains, after one gunfight, that Crystal only managed to hit a car and a freezer

The only weak points in this film is it's length (about 10 to 15 minutes too long), a completely unnecessary shootout at the end of the movie while, not graphic, shows that the writers were very uncertain about how to end the film. Lisa Kudrow is wasted in a role that one of dozens of actresses could have played, her comic abilities are not even close to mined here, and finally, a ludicrous situation at the end where Crystal pretends to represent the head of the crime family at a big meeting, almost as if this is an attempt to give Crystal the opportunity to drop a few well timed jokes - to essentially try to give him equal time in the comic spot light.

De Niro is very effective in this movie, his acting is top notch and his timing and delivery are as good as any comedic actor. There are passing references to the Godfather movies that many people will miss, but that doesn't really matter. This movie is easily one of the most enjoyable comedies of the early part of this year.

TIM CLIFTON is Renaissance Online Magazine's staff movie reviewer.

PHOTO of DeNiro by Phillip Caruso, copyright © 1999 Warner Brothers.

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