As a tough guy Robert DeNiro has been an indomitable cinematic presence over the years. When he’s strayed beyond the genre (“Awakenings” and “Midnight Run”) it’s always been a tad unsettling to witness a kinder, gentler DeNiro on screen. “Analyze This” is one of those later vehicles that tartly leverages DeNiro’s “wise guy” shtick for some uproarious laughs; whether it’s his Mr. V. (a New York City crime boss, ostensibly fashioned after John Gotti) making a thuggish retort to his shrink (Billy Crystal in his best role since “City Slickers”) after learning the Freudian definition of the the Oedipal complex — “Freud was a sick f**k and so are you.” — or a delightfully cheesy dream sequence where the duo reenact the infamous fruit market, hit scene from “The Godfather.”
Unfortunately for every gag that DeNiro and Crystal pull off — and they do have an effective comedic chemistry — the script strands them in eddies of frivolity. First there’s Mr. V.’s disorder, he’s been a hardass don for years, and suddenly he’s afflicted by panic attacks because of a big, crime family meeting? Then there are his bats of emotional weakness. Not only are these moments awkward and poorly orchestrated, but even for a comedy, it’s a stretch to watch DeNiro cry. “Analyze This” plays “The Godfather” bit, fast and funny, it just picked a framework it should have refused.