Analyze This

THE FRESHMAN meets early Woody Allen in this canny send-up of both gangsters and therapy in the movies. As Paul Vitti, head of a powerful mob family, Robert De Niro capitalizes on years of playing mob heavies to hugely entertaining effect. Vitti narrowly escapes a rubout, only to find himself tormented by disabling anxiety attacks. Neurotic therapist Ben...read more

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THE FRESHMAN meets early Woody Allen in this canny send-up of both gangsters and therapy in the movies. As Paul Vitti, head of a powerful mob family, Robert De Niro capitalizes on years of playing mob heavies to hugely entertaining effect. Vitti narrowly

escapes a rubout, only to find himself tormented by disabling anxiety attacks. Neurotic therapist Ben Sobol (Billy Crystal) -- who has an uneasy relationship with his famous father (Bill Macy), a media-hungry psychiatrist -- prefers ordinary patients but finds his world turned upside-down after he

rear-ends Vitti's bodyguard, Jelly (Joseph Viterelli): The concerned Jelly recruits the only head doctor he's ever met to treat his agitated boss. And as unlikely a candidate for psychoanalysis as Paul may be, he needs to keep his cool at an upcoming summit of Mafia family heads, which will also

be attended by his murderous rival Sindone (Chazz Palminteri), forcing him to take stock of his overwhelming emotions. Granted, the plot's progression isn't terrifically imaginative: After each mini-crisis -- failure to perform with his mistress, blubbering like a baby in front of one of those

soft-and-fuzzy mutual fund commercials -- Vitti kidnaps Ben and forces him to "analyze" his problems. Nor is the movie's depiction of psychoanalysis very complex. But the screenwriters get to poke fun at some familiar conventions of therapy, including the inattentive, apparently indifferent

therapists and their self-absorbed, oblivious patients. Crystal gets his chance to shine when Sobol tries to pass him off as Vitti's new consigliere at the Mafia summit. Though De Niro's recent ubiquity has somewhat dulled the thrill of his presence, he seems here to be having fun on screen

for the first time in years, and it's infectious. Though not much about the film sticks with you, it's a reliable piece of fluff that delivers the goods.

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