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The Weekend Australian - Review - - Television -

WHY do se­quels to good come­dies so rarely come off? Is it be­cause the film­mak­ers, in­stead of stick­ing to a suc­cess­ful for­mula, want to try some­thing dif­fer­ent, and In­stead of re­hash­ing well-tested jokes (with vari­a­tions, of course) they want their char­ac­ters to ‘‘ de­velop’’ and move on? It’s a com­mon trap, and one Harold Ramis would know about. In An­a­lyse This (Sun­day, 6.30pm, Starpics), Ramis made one of the smartest come­dies of the 90s, with a sparkling script and two charis­matic ac­tors in top form.

Robert De Niro played Paul Vitti, a New York mob­ster who is go­ing soft — blub­ber­ing over baby an­i­mals on TV and spar­ing ri­val gang­sters who de­serve to be whacked. Anx­ious col­leagues re­fer him to an up­tight psy­chi­a­trist (Billy Crys­tal), who is in­evitably drawn into Vitti’s crim­i­nal world, even sav­ing the gang­ster’s life dur­ing a shootout.

Ramis’s se­quel, An­a­lyse That (Sun­day, 8.30pm, Starpics), is cruder and more sen­ti­men­tal, sig­nalling a darker mood from the open­ing cred­its. One of the plea­sures of the orig­i­nal was its gen­tle send-up of the psy­chi­atric pro­fes­sion, which Crys­tal seemed to rel­ish. It would have been a good joke in An­a­lyse That if De Niro had started spout­ing the kind of psy­chob­a­b­ble used by some of Crys­tal’s pa­tients (‘‘I needed room to de­fine my­self as a per­son, to get in touch with my unique­ness’’). In­stead we a get a car chase, or­gasm jokes, a bul­lion rob­bery and an em­bar­rass­ingly lame per­for­mance from An­thony Lapaglia as an ac­tor with an Aussie ac­cent. I’d see the first film.

Last year’s in­trigu­ing sci-fi ad­ven­ture The Ad­just­ment Bureau (Sun­day, 8.30pm, Show­time Pre­miere) be­longs in the cat­e­gory of good ideas that don’t quite come off. Matt Da­mon plays a New York politi­cian who falls in love with a dancer (Emily Blunt). But their ro­mance doesn’t ac­cord with a grand plan for the uni­verse de­vised by un­seen Higher Pow­ers and en­forced here be­low by a bunch of fe­dora-topped char­ac­ters called the Ad­just­ment Bureau, whose job is to step in when­ever the or­dained course of fate looks like go­ing off the rails.

Di­rected by Ge­orge Nolfi, it’s based on a story by Philip K. Dick, whose ideas were of­ten more sub­tle and in­ge­nious than the many films they in­spired. I would have liked a more pen­e­trat­ing look at the na­ture of free will and the work­ings of destiny (Pow­ell and Press­burger’s glo­ri­ous fan­tasy A Mat­ter of Life and Death shows how to do it). Da­mon and Blunt work hard, but the film falls short of its good in­ten­tions. There’s a feast this week for Pe­dro Almod­ovar cult fol­low­ers, be­gin­ning on Tues­day with Volver (11am, World Movies), a su­per­nat­u­ral melo­drama star­ring Pene­lope Cruz, in which (among other things) a mother’s ghost re­turns from the grave to sort out some fam­ily is­sues. (As with all Almod­ovar plots, it’s nec­es­sary to over­sim­plify, and as with all Almod­ovar films, there are con­stant vis­ual de­lights.) Live Flesh (Tues­day, 8.30pm, World Movies) ne­go­ti­ates the many twists of a Ruth Ren­dell mys­tery to de­liver a story of re­venge mixed with pathos and hu­mour. All About My Mother (Thurs­day, 11.55am, World Movies) in­cludes among its char­ac­ters a pro­mis­cu­ous trans­ves­tite, a trans­gen­dered pros­ti­tute and an­gelic Sis­ter Rosa (Cruz again), whose mis­sion is to min­is­ter to un­happy street­walk­ers.

In Women on the Verge of a Ner­vous Break­down (Thurs­day, 8.30pm, World Movies), one of the di­rec­tor’s early suc­cesses, An­to­nio Ban­deros stars in a mad­cap af­fair full of poignant mis­un­der­stand­ings, buried fam­ily se­crets, sui­ci­dal lovers and ec­cen­tric hang­ers-on. There’s enough heartache, farce and wild co­in­ci­dence in your av­er­age Almod­ovar film to sup­ply Hol­ly­wood screen­writ­ers with a life­time of ideas. Florid, melo­dra­matic and over-the-top they may seem, but al­ways with a rich vein of com­pas­sion and un­der­stand­ing.

Car­men Maura and Pene­lope Cruz in Pe­dro Almod­ovar’s cult clas­sic Volver

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