Dec. 6, 2002 -- Now in theaters: Analyze That and Adaptation.
Analyze That — Analyze That isn't a very good movie. It's a one-joke script … but at least that joke is funny.
My final analysis: Analyze That is even funnier than Analyze This. It also gives most of us the only opportunity we will ever have to hear Robert De Niro sing (and that's the only opportunity most of us will ever need). After you hear him, you'll know what I mean.
De Niro, reprising his role as mob boss Paul Vitti, has snapped after three years in Sing Sing. He keeps breaking into songs from West Side Story. If you think he's in bad shape, wait until you hear the plot.
The FBI calls in Vitti's old shrink, played by Billy Crystal, and he eventually moves into Crystal's home. But the FBI has an ulterior motive. Agents are using him as bait in a sting operation. They could have invented a far more believable excuse to let him out, but it wouldn't be nearly as funny.
De Niro tries to go straight; he can't. He fails as a car salesman. Pointing out the spacious trunk of a new Lincoln to prospective buyers, he says, "Look at that, big enough for three bodies." Finally, he lands a job as technical adviser to the star of a cable TV show about a mob family and before you can say "Bada Bing," he's a hit, man. So's the film. Grade: B
Adaptation — Nicolas Cage is screenwriter Charley Kaufman — a real guy who's really neurotic, and you start to see how much so, when he agrees to write the movie adaptation of a book about orchids.
Kaufman doesn't have a clue. His solution: He writes a script about a screenwriter who doesn't have a clue about writing a script.
Kaufman's problems are compounded by his twin brother, Donald, who shows him up at every turn. It's his twin who gets the girls and sells scripts for seven figures (even though his scripts are filled with more clichés than there is tea in China).
Meryl Streep plays the book's author. Chris Cooper plays the outlaw orchid collector. There are three Oscar-probable performances here. Make that four. Cage, playing both twins, could get nominated twice, for best actor and best supporting actor.
It's great to see movies made and acted by smart people who aren't afraid to be smart. Director Spike Jonze and writer Charley Kaufman are the same guys who did Being John Malkovich, which made my 10 Best list when that film came out three years ago. You'd think after 100 years, and literally hundreds of thousands of feature films, there couldn't be another completely original way to make a movie. These guys have done it twice. Adaptation is one of the best films of the year. Grade: A