Robert De Niro must have thought he had this humour thing nailed. With Analyze This and Meet The Parents, the Bobster elicited enough guffaws to drown out the echoing gasps of shock at his 1989 comi-disaster We're No Angels. All he had to do was play it straight as an arrow and find an accomplished comedy actor to bounce off. Okay, so it didn't work so well in Showtime, but you can't win 'em all...
And with Analyze That, it appears he can't win 'em at all. The De Niro/Billy Crystal pair-up proved potent enough for a single movie - Bobby as the Mob boss with 'issues', Billy as his jittery, sarcastic therapist. But the chemistry just isn't strong enough to survive a second jaunt, especially as De Niro makes (or is forced to make) the major error of no longer playing it straight.
In what's meant to be a raucously funny plot, Bobby's incarcerated gangster Paul Vitti cons his way out of Sing Sing by, um, sing-singing. Yes, he fakes insanity by performing showtunes. From West Side Story. Hilarious. For some reason, the FBI then hands him into the custody of Dr Ben Sobel (Crystal), knowing that Vitti will return to a life of crime. Which he does, but not before hilariously trying to turn legit, taking a variety of jobs including adviser to a Sopranos-style TV show. Along the way, he drags a grieving Sobel (whose dad, hilariously, has just died) into a heist, during which the head-shrinker hilariously cracks and beats a man to a hilariously bloody pulp. And then everyone lives hilariously ever after. Singing showtunes.
While director Harold Ramis balanced the dark with the comic in Analyze This, he allows the sequel to tumble arse over tit into a very uncomfortable place indeed. Gangsters make great anti-heroes, yes, but Analyze That's attempt to make Paul Vitti likeable is so cack-handed, it just ends up shooting itself in the foot. Which isn't hilarious - just painful. And it's De Niro's comedy rep that's hurt the most.