Genre: Crime Comedy Running Time: 1 hr. 36 min.
Release Date: December 6th, 2002 MPAA Rating: R
Director: Harold Ramis Actors: Robert De Niro, Billy Crystal, Lisa Kudrow, Joe Viterelli, Cathy Moriarty, Joey Diaz, Donnamarie Recco, Callie Thorne
otorious gangster Paul Vitti (Robert De Niro) is now behind bars, but he’s still well protected and well connected – despite a not-so-unexpected assassination attempt and crazy, mental breakdown theatrics in the mess hall. Meanwhile, Dr. Ben Sobel’s (Billy Crystal) father has passed away. Mere minutes after he arrives back home with his wife Laura (Lisa Kudrow) from the funeral, the FBI greets them with the news of Vitti’s meltdown. The once great, major mafia figure now goes on “West Side Story” singing sprees before falling into catatonic spells.
In this sequel, though Ben is the professional psychoanalyst, it’s frequently difficult to tell which one is genuinely loopy. Vitti is suffering from chronic anxiety, criminal temperament, and other sorts of mental deterioration, but he’s up for parole in 30 days. His only hope is to be released into the custody of Ben, who is conned into the task – and appears just as incapable of managing real life. The premise hasn’t changed too significantly, causing the entire production to appear as something of a rehash of the original – though what worked previously tends to work here yet again.
Someone is after Paul, as the remnants of the remaining crime families are at war. It could be anyone, considering no one is thrilled to see Vitti return to his old territory. The cops don’t buy into his insanity, but willingly let him go, hoping he’ll lead them straight to the rest of the hoods. As part of his rehabilitation, Vitti is supposed to get a legitimate job, but selling cars, being a host at a restaurant, and working at the counter of a jewelry store all pose problems – he can’t seem to be anything but a gangster. As Paul tries to straighten out his life and get to the bottom of his betrayers, Ben must similarly deal with his randomly flaring-up coping process over his father’s death.
Once again, Billy Crystal and Robert De Niro play off each other with successful, clashing comedic personalities; De Niro curses up a storm with a mixture of authentic thug lingo and biting sarcasm, while Crystal assumes the conservative, timid, calm doctor struggling to contend with every surprising, adventurous situation. It’s not unlike the premise of “What About Bob?” with Crystal comparably scripted and whiskered to match Richard Dreyfuss’ role. Vitti isn’t entirely inauthentic, which gives the film an air of realism beyond other purely parodying comedies – his mannerisms, speech, dress, and gait are equally convincing. Even Sobel’s therapist banter is believable. This best-of-both-worlds tone makes the criminal elements more serious and the comedic interludes more humorous.
Accidental murders abound, De Niro reunites with Cathy Moriarty (his love interest in “Raging Bull”), and Jelly (Joe Viterelli) returns to be a hokey partner-in-crime. There’s also a heavy emphasis on sexual jokes and innuendo, where vulgarity trumps creative humor. Resultantly, not every gag is a winner. And the finale is an armored truck heist, which poses such a deadly threat that nearly all of the comedy is abandoned for straight action and suspense. Nonetheless, there’s something particularly amusing about a generally killjoy shrink losing his cool and going berserk on a crook. Plus, the end credits role with bloopers.
– Mike Massie