In January of 1999, The Sopranos made its TV debut, and it was a revelation to see a show that not only featured a mafia figure undergoing psychiatric therapy, but took it seriously. Then, just two months later, Harold Ramis directed this comedy that took that same concept, but turned it into a smart, and sharp witty comedy.
On the verge of a major mafia summit, kingpin Paul Vitti finds himself suffering panic attacks and going through a serious meltdown...all on the verge of a major meeting of the country's crime bosses. Desperate for help, he gets his main man Jelly to help him out. Coincidentally, Jelly had a run in with Dr. Ben Sobel, a psychiatrist whose practice isn't really going anywhere, who also happens to have his mind on his impending marriage.
Well, whether Sobel likes it or not, Vitti seeks him out, and, impressed, basically forces Sobel to take him on as his primary client. Surprisingly, some progress is made, but of course, things don't go all that smoothly, and the results are hilarious.
Okay, so the film isn't a masterpiece of comedy, but the writing is sharp enough, the concept is fun, if not all that original, and yeah, it is pretty funny. I think what makes the film work the most are the performances. De Niro has type casted himself in comedic roles for continually recycling the schtick of poking fun at his tough guy persona (like he does here), but what really sells it is that he plays the role straight, and his reactions to all the absurd farce are where the laughs come from, instead of being painfully forced. Crystal is wonderful, as has great chemistry with all the tough guy actors, and it's fun to see him gets stuck in all these nutty situations.
Some of the jokes are well played, despite being obvious, but hey, the film does deal with the material a lot more intelligently than the majority of the National Lampoon's output or those countless spoof movies like Epic Movie.
All in all, this makes for a pretty enjoyable movie. It's funny, has a great concept, decent execution, and features fun performances from a solid cast. Give this one a go.