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Crystal, DeNiro Reunite for <i>Analyze That</i> - 2002-12-07

Comic actor Billy Crystal and Oscar-winning dramatic star Robert DeNiro reunite for a sequel to their 1999 comedy hit Analyze This. Alan Silverman has a look at Analyze That.

Robert DeNiro again plays volatile crime boss Paul Vitti and Billy Crystal returns as neurotic psychotherapist Ben Sobel. In the first film, the doctor reluctantly helped the mobster overcome anxiety attacks. In the sequel, Vitti, in prison for his many crimes, begins to exhibit some odd behavior.

After belting out show tunes from West Side Story he becomes totally incommunicative. The baffled authorities, unsure if he's truly flipped his lid, send Vitti home in the care of Sobel, who discovers it was all an act.

With a patient threatening to kill him and authorities threatening to arrest him, Dr. Sobel starts acting irrationally. Billy Crystal, who is also executive producer of Analyze That, says the challenge was to make a film at least as funny as the original.

"It's hard with the second one, after the first one was so successful and such a good, I believe, and well-liked movie, to make the story good and the characters good," says Crystal. "Why would people come again? Why would they care about us? So it took a long time until we all felt comfortable with what it was and it actually kept being developed as we were shooting sometimes. We kept changing, making it funnier and more on story until we all felt satisfied."

For co-star DeNiro, this is his first sequel in a career spanning more than 80 films. While spoofing the sort of tough guy he's often played, he also gamely tries his hand at slapstick physical humor.

There was hesitation, but from my standpoint I thought 'there's nothing to lose, we could have some fun and why not?' " he says.

The point was to have fun doing it and I wasn't always sure it was going to work. Some of it I thought was fun on paper, but I wasn't sure if I could execute it or not," he says. "So sometimes I would not be comfortable or sure with the physical stuff, but I would do it anyway. I'd say 'well, if you don't try it you'll never know, so go ahead and do it.'"

In the original Analyze This, the usually dramatic DeNiro won over audiences with his unexpected comic side; but veteran comedian Crystal says he was not surprised.

As a matter of fact, when we first started developing the first [film], I sent it to Bob, called him and said 'read this, I think there's something great here.' As I told him a million times, I always felt that even in some of the darker movies that he made, there was always a laugh in some of the characters . . ." says Crystal. "I felt that he is such a loved and respected actor that I kept saying to him 'if you do this, they'll go nuts. It's going to be huge!' And it was true. i loved watching him have a good time."

The notoriously untalkative DeNiro says part of the fun comes from the good working relationship he has with Crystal.

In our case, especially, I think it does help that we like each other and respect each other and have fun. We're both from New York . . . and those things help," DeNiro says.

Analyze That also features Lisa Kudrow as the psychiatrist's aggravated wife and screen veteran Cathy Moriarty plays a rival mobster. Like the original, the sequel is directed by Harold Ramis.