At first there wouldn't seem to be many similarities between the life of a mobster and the life of a movie critic.
But upon closer inspection, the two actually have much in common. And I, for one, realized this when I saw the new Robert DeNiro-Billy Crystal comedy, Analyze This.
The premise is simple. Take a big, tough mobster and make him go to therapy to get in touch with his feelings. Very funny. Very open to possibilities. Very ready for comedy. Let Robert DeNiro
spoof his numerous gangster roles and let Billy Crystal follow him around as his usual neurotic self and all will be well.
And that pretty much sums up the movie.
But what really got my attention is just how much I, The Self-Made Critic, had in common with DeNiro's mobster boss, Paul Vitti.
We're both heads of large, important organizations.
We each have a legion of people ready to act on our merest whim.
We both hold the power of life or death in our hands, Vitti literally, and myself over people's careers.
We each have competitors how are always looking for a sign of weakness to come in and clean us out. I make one false move, say endorse Godzilla or hate Saving Private Ryan, and Roger Ebert or Rex
Reed are all over me faster than you can spit a herring bone. It's brutal out there!
People often want us dead.
I can see how the pressure would make Vitti, obviously the lesser man in my comparison, feel the need to see a shrink. Personally, I would never need to see a specialist, or to get in touch with my
feelings or cry or anything, but if Vitti were as strong as I am, the movie would not have a premise.
Anyway, back to the movie. It is exactly what you would expect. It does not surprise you, it does not astound you. It is a Hollywood comedy starring two Hollywood actors who do a fine job in roles
that seem to be made for them. That does not mean it is bad. Far from it. I actually laughed quite a bit, as did most of the theater. But this is no incredible work of art. It knows what it is,
it plays directly towards the mainstream audience, and it does it well.
There are other people in movie, but who cares? Even when they are really funny people, like Lisa Kudrow or Molly Shannon, they're only there as foils for our two heroes, Billy and Robert. Heck, you
could throw in nude dancing girls, a huge earth-smashing asteroid and a talking whale and it wouldn't change the fact that this is a movie about Billy and Robert. Well, maybe the talking whales; that
might change a couple of things.
The point of the film, as near as I can see, is that if everyone got in touch with their feelings, the world would be a better place. I'm not sure if they're trying to start a pro-shrink movement or
anything, but they may have a point. If we all became conflicted over the thought of killing someone in cold blood, it might save some lives.
Something to think about.
I'm giving Analyze This 3 3/4 Babylons. I was thinking of giving it 4 Babylons but I can't convince myself that this is a 4 Babylon movie, likewise I considered giving it only 3 1/2 Babylons, but I
felt that might be cheapening the movie, and everyone deserves the benefit of the doubt. So yes, 3 3/4 Babylons. I'm pretty secure with that choice.
Has anyone noticed how full of himself the SMC seems to be these days? I mean, first that Rushmore review, and now this. How can we bring him down to earth? Let me know at SMCed@brunching.com.
Some of you may remember my "How the SMC can get a life" contest. Out of the many emails I received, reader Natalie Crupi suggested a most creative solution:
"Here is my solution, 'A Simple Plan' if you will.
I suggest that the Self-Made Critic travel to Australia for one day. If he then travels home immediately, he would arrive there the exact same time he left here. Thus he is able to live the same day
This would allow him the pleasure of living each day twice, thus having two lives. One more than he has already.
Effectively, I just helped him get a life.
Natalie, if you'd care to email me an address down under, I'd be happy to have the SMC mail (and pay for the postage) you a Brunching Shuttlecocks t-shirt.
Directed By: Harold Ramis
Starring: Robert DeNiro, Billy Crystal, Lisa Kudrow and your inner child.