The film opens with the story of Paul Vitti (Robert
De Niro), who is a tough Mafia Family Boss, a gangster who is
used to being in control. The film begins showing the 1957 attempted
meeting of the Mob Bosses, being narrated by an unseen person,
who had second had knowledge of this event. The voice recalls
what happened when the Bosses tried to meet at a mobster's country
farm. "The Feds moved in, the Bosses moved out." A sequence of
scenes show the Federal agents knocking down the door, and heavyset
gangsters rolling out of the windows, etc. and trying to run away.
Then, we are shown that the voice of the narrator
is Paul Vitti (Robert DeNiro), a powerful New York Mob Boss who
is having a business lunch with a close, family friend, Dominic.
Dominic, who was a close friend of Paul's father, Anthony Vitti
(Vinny Villa), is telling him of the upcoming meeting of all the
bosses, imploring Vitti to attend this big meeting with him. While
Vitti doesn't think it is a good idea at all, he reluctantly agrees
to go with Dominic. As they get up to leave, Vitti goes back for
a toothpick, while Dominic is gunned down outside of the restaurant.
Soon after this violent incident, Vitti finds himself unable to
shoot anyone, is uncontrollably emotional, and isn't able to get
his breath, suffering panic attacks. Paul Vitti must conquer his
panic attacks in just two weeks, if he is to be at his best for
this big meeting of the bosses, where he may be picked to head
the whole organization.
The story switches to the life of a rational,
thoughtful, kind Dr. Ben Sobol (Billy Crystal), a psychiatrist
who has a family therapy practice, with patients who don't challenge
his abilities, and has some typical family problems of his own.
Sobol has an easygoing teen son, Michael (Kyle Sabihy), who lives
with him, with some annoying habits. Michael likes to listen in
on his father's office sessions with patients from a vent in his
room. The son also has a habit of repeating what his mom (Sobol's
ex-wife) has to say about his father, Dr. Ben Sobol.
The biggest event in Ben Sobol's life will be
his upcoming second wedding to a beautiful woman, Laura MacNamara
(Lisa Kudrow) in Florida, which his parents chose not to attend
because his father, Isaac Sobol, M.D.(Bill Macy), a very successful
psychiatrist, has three book signings that week end. One senses
the friction between father and son, as the younger Sobol has
"competitive issues" with his very prominent father, who loves
to be the center of attention.
However, little does Dr. Ben Sobol know that these
problems/ marriage event are about to play second fiddle when
he accidentally bumps into a sedan owned by Paul Vitti, being
driven by his main body guard, henchman Jelly (Joe Viterelli).
The trunk pops open and a man who is tied up can be seen in the
open trunk. Dr. Sobol doesn't see the man because he is talking
to his son. Jelly pops out and quickly shuts the trunk lid. After
a humorous interchange, Dr. Sobol insists on giving Jelly his
professional card so Jelly can contact him if he changes his mind
about getting the damages to the car fixed.
Well, in the middle of a session with a patient,
guess who shows up? Jelly (Joe Viterelli) barges in and politely
announces that Paul Vitti wants to see him now. After a humorous
interchange between the three of them; Jelly, the patient and
Dr. Sobol, and over Dr. Sobol's objections, Paul Vitti walks in
to Dr. Sobol's office for his first therapy session.
The stress in Dr. Sobol's life has just been escalated,
and he is in for a wild, life-threatening, new wife-annoying ride
that makes his own troubles seem minor, even taking precedence
over his own wedding. He finds out by experience, the following
truths. When you are hired by Paul Vitti, not only are you on
24 hour call, you must deal with Vitti's affable, but insistent
Jelly (Joe Viterelli), and bullying F.B.I agents as well, who
are determined to trap Vitti through you. Most importantly, you
are in danger of being killed with Vitti by either his murderous
rival, Boss Primo Sidone (Chazz Palminteri), or being killed by
the unpredictable Paul Vitti himself, a powerful guy with rough
manners and no social etiquette who will kill you if he thinks
the F.B.I. is using you.
You also can't take Paul Vitti places like family
events where you are meeting your in-laws for the first time!
A favorite sequence of scenes starts with Dr. Ben, his son and
his lovely fiancee, Laura meet with her parents in a swanky, Florida
restaurant in their hotel. As Laura's father, "Captain" Scott
MacNamara, her mother, Dr. Ben Sobol and his son, Michael make
their way to their table, who should come walking into this same
restaurant but Paul Vitti and his family! The look on Crystal's
face is priceless. This leads to some humorous squirmy moments
and humorous consequences.
Dr. Sobol chooses to ignore the F.B.I. threats
and all the danger he is in and focus on his patient, Paul Vitti
when it dawns on him what has caused Vitti's panic attacks. His
dedication to his work sees him through the threat of a barrel
of a gun to get to the truth to help his patient, which in turn
strengthens him as a family therapist and gives him a new outlook
In fact, Dr. Sobol finds himself going above and
beyond the call of duty for his patient, when he is drafted again
by Jelly during his second attempted wedding ceremony, to be a
temporary stand-in at the Mob Meeting, which is a hilarious, sequence
of scenes, a high point in the movie. Sensitive, caring Dr. Sobol
has to change into a tough -talking, swaggering, loudmouth representative
who can't help analyzing the murderous nemesis of Paul Vitti,
the verbally abusive Boss Primo Sidone (Chazz Palminteri), a real
charmer, in Sobol's verbal confrontation with Boss Primo at the
Having Paul Vitti as a patient does have its pluses,
such as receiving unusual gifts of appreciation, great job satisfaction,
a new confidence in one's abilities and a revised attitude about
life and its problems.
This hilarious story and screenplay parodying
Mafia movies, such as "The Godfather," was written by Peter Tolan
and Kenneth Lonergan and directed by the multi-talented, funny
man, Harold Ramis, who also helped to write this screenplay. Besides
being a talented writer and actor, Ramis directed such films as:
"Caddyshack," "Vacation," and "Groundhog Day."
The wonderful cast gives sparkling, entertaining
performances, and play off each other with perfect comedic timing
and perfect reactions. There are many hilarious moments between
the main characters.
Robert DeNiro has a lot of fun playing Don Paul
Vitti, a powerful Mafia Boss in need of counseling. DeNiro is
a talented actor that can succeed in satirical, comical portrayals,
as well as dramatic ones.
Billy Crystal was wonderful as Dr. Ben Sobol,
a dedicated family therapist with a sense of humor, and gifted
with guts and determination as well.
DeNiro and Crystal together create the humorous
magic that brings the script to life. They explore together and
give a brilliant rendition of what it must be like in therapy
sessions, between a powerful, yet distressed gangster and a therapist
like Dr. Ben Sobol.
Joe Viterelli gives an inspiring performance as
the polite, rather round, jovial, yet menacing "Jelly," Vitti's
main henchman, who is a dedicated employee who always gets whatever
job assigned done, without raising his voice. He knows that he
isn't the brightest bulb in the chandelier, and acts accordingly
to his abilities, sticking to things he does very well; protecting
Paul Vitti and getting Dr. Ben Sobol to come when he is needed,
using a variety of methods of persuasion!
A favorite scene of mine happens at Dr. Ben Sobol's
second attempt to get married to Laura, this time at the Waldorf
in New York City. As the Rabbi is saying the vows for Dr. Ben
Sobol to repeat, Sobol hears a loud "Psst! Doc!" behind him. Sobol
looks and sees Jelly crouching behind a big potted plant, who
pops his head out, beckoning urgently to him. Hilarity reigns.
Dr. Ben Sobol is needed once again - it is an emergency!!
Chazz Palminteri excels in his portrayal of the
infamous, cold-blooded Boss Primo Sidone, a powerful murderous
opponent of Vitti's who has no socially redeeming qualities and
tries to bump Paul Vitti off three times before the "Big Meeting."
One of these attempts ruins Dr. Ben Sobol's first wedding attempt
in Florida in a unique way, that upsets the bride so much that
they reschedule their wedding for the following week in New York.
Rated R- This is an adult comedy. The language
has lots of potty words, a liberal dose of the "F" word,
one sexual scene and some violence. Trust me, you don't want your
children talking like this. Sensitive adults may be offended as