What About Bob?

1991, Movie, PG, 97 mins

Review

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Actors Bill Murray and Richard Dreyfuss provide the frenzied fun that highlights WHAT ABOUT BOB?, a wacky slapstick comedy about a phobia-riddled patient and his addled psychiatrist. So good, in fact, are Murray and Dreyfuss as a comedy team that it is to be devoutly hoped the duo will be given an opportunity to reprise their pairing.

Dr. Leo Marvin (Dreyfuss), a mean-spirited and supremely egotistical psychiatrist, is looking forward to his forthcoming appearance on a "Good Morning America" telecast during which he plans to brag about the magnificent merits of Baby Steps, his new book about emotional disorder theories in which he details his philosophy of treating mental patients and their phobias. Meanwhile, Bob Wiley (Murray) is a recluse so afraid to leave his own apartment that he has to talk to himself and virtually lead himself by his own hand to get out the door. When Bob is pawned off on Leo by a psychiatrist colleague, he attaches himself to his new shrink like a fly to flypaper.

Leo, quickly exasperated by Bob, imagines himself freed from his new patient's encroachments when he accompanies his family to a quiet and peaceful New Hampshire lakeside cottage for a month's vacation. Leo intends to treat himself to 30 glorious days of ego-building and self-aggrandizement, to say nothing of how he expects to mesmerize his family with his prowess both as an awesome intellect and as a brilliant husband and remarkable father who "knows" all there is to know about instructing his spouse and raising his offspring. Unfortunately for Leo, his eager new patient isn't going to let him enjoy a quiet summer by the lake. By cleverly tricking the telephone operator at the doctor's exchange, Bob learns the whereabouts of the doctor and his family. Despite his phobia about traveling alone, Bob somehow manages to talk himself onto a bus and arrives in New Hampshire. Leo's idyllic vacation comes to a screeching halt the moment Bob lays eyes on him, and from that point, the film becomes a series of hilarious confrontations during which Bob ingratiates himself with every member of Leo's family--except, of course, Leo himself, who could cheerfully murder Bob in cold blood.

While the idea of a patient being cured as his shrink goes increasingly bananas is not an original concept, what director Frank Oz and screenwriter Tom Schulman do with their material is totally refreshing. As mentioned earlier, the inspired pairing of Murray and Dreyfuss has given filmgoers what is, perhaps, the funniest comedy team in many a moon. The picture's deft direction and sparkling dialogue certainly aid and abet these two comic spirits in their performances. That the film has been equally well cast in its supporting roles only enhances the fun. Julie Hagerty (AIRPLANE, LOST IN AMERICA), Charlie Korsmo (DICK TRACY, HOOK) and Kathryn Erbe are marvelous as Dreyfuss's wife and children. One poignantly funny highlight is the striking contrast the filmmakers make between Leo's complex and muddled method of teaching his son to dive off a small pier and Bob's cheery, easygoing demonstration of how to accomplish the same feat. Other highlights include Bob tied to the mast of a sailboat, happily waving to the spectators on shore; the thoroughly frustrated Leo hyperventilating while Bob good-naturedly bounces on his back in an attempt to help the doctor start breathing again; and the catastrophic "Good Morning America" telecast during which Bob inadvertently upstages Leo.

WHAT ABOUT BOB? is a modern-day comedy in the grand tradition of the best screwball comedies of the late 1930s and early 40s. Production values are uniformly excellent, including the camerawork of Michael Ballhaus, the crisp editing by Anne V. Coates and the happifying musical score by Miles Goodman. (Adult situations.) leave a comment

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