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reading the cast and director for the new mobster comedy , " analyze this , " i asked myself , " how could this miss ? "
robert de niro ( " taxi driver , " " raging bull " ) , billy crystal ( " city slickers " ) , lisa kudrow ( " the opposite of sex " ) , and director harold ramis ( " national lampoon's vacation " ) .
these are usually reliable filmmakers ( well , okay , crystal has been in a sizable slump lately ) , and tellingly , the first half-hour of " analyze this " was very funny .
unfortunately , as the running time ticked away , i began to think that the first thirty minutes had , unbeknownst to me , been rewound and were being replayed another two-and-a-half times .
the film has obtained a clever premise , but does not have any idea what to do with it as it progressively becomes more and more repetitive until i finally stopped enjoying or caring about what was happening on the screen .
middle-aged psychoanalyst ben sobel's ( billy crystal ) life is finally going very well .
although he has never gotten along with his own uncaring parents , especially his father , who is also a psychiatrist , ben has an easy-going teenage son ( kyle sabihy ) and is about to travel down to miami to get married to his tv news reporter girlfriend , laura ( lisa kudrow ) .
in little but a flash , however , ben suddenly sees his plans ruined when he accidentally hits the car of the mob and subsequently gets paid a visit from famed mafia guy paul vitti ( robert de niro ) , who desperately wants counseling , even though he himself won't even admit to having anxiety attacks .
ben tries to help paul , mostly so he will get him off his back , but the plot gets more complicated when paul follows ben to his wedding , which ends with a man dropping eight stories to his death .
it seems to ben that no matter what he does , paul vitti will not go away , and the more they become involved , the more ben's potentially happy life gets into danger .
" analyze this " has a few laughs sprinkled throughout ( mostly in the first half ) , but i always had the nagging thought that what director ramis and writers peter tolan , ramis , and kenneth lonergan had done was thought of one joke ( robert de niro lightly spoofing his serious past mafia roles , while terrorizing and becoming buddies with comic billy crystal ) and then tiresomely recycled it for the duration of the 106-minute running time .
admittedly , de niro is very funny here ( and i can't remember the last time you could use that adjective to describe him ) , and crystal is in top-form , but the whole movie is weighed down directly on their shoulders with nothing else to support them , including a substantial plotline .
since " analyze this " bills not one , not two , but three writers , you'd think that they would have been able to work together to fix the noticably large flaws , but they must have all been on auto-pilot .
one of the most disappointing and wasted opportunities in the film is the way the movie deals with the supporting characters , all of which have next to nothing to do and aren't even given multi-dimensional characters to attempt to develop .
coming off of her oscar-caliber work in two of last year's best films , " clockwatchers " and " the opposite of sex , " lisa kudrow's throwaway " girlfriend " role is an incredible step down .
sure , kudrow's fellow " friend " jennifer aniston did the same thing two weeks ago in " office space , " but at least we got to spend a little time with aniston .
kudrow , meanwhile , mostly just stands around , no doubt wondering why she agreed to appear in this film in the first place .
chazz palminteri , as rival gangster primo , fares even worse , in a role that plays more like an afterthought than an actual character .
finally , molly shannon ( rising film star and cast member on " saturday night live " ) has a rousingly hilarious one-scene cameo right at the beginning as one of crystal's patients and then completely disappears .
too bad , considering that the supporting actors surely have proven that they have the abilities to support de niro and crystal .
once " analyze this " approached its second wedding scene leaving kudrow's laura standing alone at the altar once again , i had become thoroughly annoyed by where the story had gone , and had mostly lost respect for the character we were supposed to sympathize with the most , ben .
afterwards , the climactic scene with ben posing as a fellow mob boss in place of the depressed paul , became a real laugh-free dead-zone , losing its last remaining comic punches .
" analyze this " proves that talent can certainly help any film out , but when the written material isn't up to their level , what we are virtually left with is a vacuum of thin air .