Harold Ramis: The '00s
Analyze That (January 7/03)
I didn't much care for the first film, and Analyze That isn't much better. It starts out great, though, with Robert De Niro's character behind bars and plotting his escape - which involves convincing everyone that he's crazy, including Billy Crystal's psychiatrist. But, like the original, once the variety of mob characters are introduced, the film becomes about as entertaining as a colonoscopy. Obviously, putting mafia characters into supposedly funny situations just doesn't work - which explains why the first half hour was surprisingly enjoyable. That opening 30 minutes, which deals solely with De Niro and Crystal, is actually pretty funny and far more interesting than anything that follows (though Anthony LaPaglia does steal scenes as an Australian actor playing a New York gangster). The film just doesn't have enough ideas to sustain a 100 minute movie, as evidenced by a stupefyingly boring heist sequence in the last act.
The Ice Harvest
For the most part, The Ice Harvest generally comes off as an effective adaptation of Scott Phillips' admittedly superior novel - as screenwriters Richard Russo and Robert Benton retain many of the more memorable elements within Phillips' work (including the off-kilter structure and emphasis on unlikable characters). John Cusack stars as Charlie, a shady lawyer who teams up with a strip-club owner (Billy Bob Thornton's Vic) to rip off a local mobster - with complications ensuing after said mobster learns of the pair's efforts. There's little doubt that The Ice Harvest fares best in its opening hour, as director Harold Ramis' inability to sustain a consistent tone grows increasingly problematic as the film progresses - with the inclusion of a needlessly upbeat conclusion certainly not doing the proceedings any favors. This unevenness hardly proves disastrous, however, and it's ultimately impossible to deny the effectiveness of many of the film's attributes (ie Oliver Platt's hilarious turn as one of Charlie's bumbling cohorts). And while the movie is a far cry from its various cinematic cousins - ie Fargo - The Ice Harvest is a low-key, sporadically enthralling effort that should satisfy fans of Phillips' book.
As underwhelming as its buzz might have indicated, Year One has been infused with a pervasively scattershot sensibility that grows more and more problematic as the movie unfolds - with the overt absence of laughs ultimately rendering the affable atmosphere moot. The movie - which follows a pair of cavemen (Jack Black's Zed and Michael Cera's Oh) as they encounter a series of Biblical figures after they're kicked out of their tribe - admittedly boasts an amiable opening half hour that benefits substantially from the palpable chemistry between Black and Cera, as it's initially difficult not to get a minor kick out of the actors' unabashedly irreverent work. And while both Black and Cera are essentially playing variations on their long-since-established onscreen personas - ie Black is brash and overconfident while Cera is timid and sarcastic - the novelty of viewing their antics within the context of a Biblical satire is enough to carry the plotless proceedings for far longer than one might've anticipated. There does reach a point, however, at which the pronounced lack of substance simply becomes impossible to overlook, with the lamentable emphasis on hopelessly puerile bits of comedy - ie Oh is forced to rub oil all over the unreasonably hairy chest of Oliver Platt's High Priest - ensuring that the movie runs out of steam long before it reaches its aggressively frenetic finale.