Well, this movie brings back some fun memories, and unfortunately, I have to somewhat date myself reliving them. So when this movie came out, I was finishing up the 8th grade, which was actually a pretty fun time in my life. However, unless your friends lived close by, or within bike distance, you had to rely on your parents, or your friend’s parents, or older siblings that are able to drive you places if you wanted to do any sort of hanging out. Luckily for me, my best friend back then (and still one of my closest friends) lived in biking distance and I was almost always over at his place. But I’m going off subject here so let’s get back to the movie. Myself and several of my friends went to go see this at the theaters, getting dropped off by various parents, and I thought it was incredibly funny. I bought it on VHS a couple of years later and eventually upgraded it to DVD shortly after it became available. So let’s have some laughs with today’s movie, What About Bob?
The plot: Dr. Leo Marvin is a rather egotistical psychologist in New York who has just written a new book, “Baby Steps” and calls his wife to tell her that Good Morning America will be coming to do an interview with him while they are on vacation. When a colleague calls and says he is quitting his practice and wants to refer one of his patients, Bob Wiley, to him and Leo agrees and when he asks his secretary to schedule an appointment for Bob, he learns that he has already called twice. When Bob arrives for his appointment, he basically reveals that he suffers from multiple phobias which almost cripple him when he has to leave his apartment. Leo gives Bob a copy of his book, explaining that it is a guide to setting small goals to help overcome larger problems, and says it should help him while he is on vacation for the next month. Bob becomes upset on hearing this and asks what will happen if he needs to talk to him while he is out of town but Leo assures him that if he has a problem, his colleague can help him or he can go to the emergency room and tells him that he will see him next month. The next day, Bob repeatedly tries calling Leo at his vacation home, even having a hooker pretend to be his sister, and Leo gets angry and tells him not to call him anymore. Bob then pretends to be a police officer and goes to speak to the telephone switchboard operator, telling them that Bob Wiley died, and learns where Leo is staying while on vacation. Boarding a bus to Lake Winnipesaukee, New Hampshire, Bob eventually reaches the small community and begins yelling out for Leo. Leo and his family are buying groceries and hear Bob yelling out and he quickly tries to get them into the car and away from there but Bob spots him and heads their way. Leo maneuvers Bob away from the car and asks what he is doing there and Bob explains that apologizes for faking his death but had to see him. Leo convinces Bob to wait for him at the local diner and he will call and talk to him later but the diner’s owners, Mr. and Mrs. Guttman, happily agree to take Bob to Leo’s house, as he had bought it out from under them while they were trying to purchase it. When Bob arrives at the house, he introduces himself to Leo’s family (his wife Fay, daughter Anna, and son Sigmund “Siggy”) and Leo takes him outside and tells him that he should take a vacation from his problems and Bob happily walks away back to town. The next day, Leo is shocked to find that Bob is still there and Bob explains that he has decided to take a vacation and stay with the Guttmans and he just wanted to stop by and say hi, not as a patient but as fellow vacationer. When Bob leaves, Leo tells his family that he doesn’t want them to have any contact with Bob but when Anna leaves to go hang out with friends, she gives Bob a ride back into town and invites him to go sailing with her friends. Back at their home, Leo is trying to teach Siggy how to dive when he hears Bob calling out to him and sees Bob on the sailboat with Anna, causing Leo to accidentally drop Siggy into the lake. When the sailboat returns to the dock, Leo is there waiting and quickly pulls Anna away from everyone and tries talking to her, using hand puppets, but Anna rebuffs his criticism and walks away. Bob returns to the Marvin’s house and speaks with Siggy, who is moping on the dock, and when Siggy suggests Bob learn how to dive next, Bob asks him to show him how. Siggy goes to explain to Bob how it works, then moves in front to show Bob how to do it. Anna is watching them from nearby and Fay sees them from the house and motions Leo to come look but when he sees Bob helping Siggy, he immediately gets upset when he isn’t there as Siggy makes his first dive. As Siggy celebrates and goes to do it again, Leo rushes onto the dock, shoving Bob out of the way and into the water in his rush to get to Siggy. Fay, Anna, and Siggy rush to help Bob, while Leo shouts at the Guttmans, who were staring at him disapprovingly from their boat. Later, Leo apologizes to his family for his actions, and mimes an apology to Bob, and tells them he wants Bob to leave but Fay invites Bob for dinner as a form of apolgy. During the course of the dinner, Leo starts choking on something and Bob performs the Heimlich maneuver on him to dislodge the object and Fay, Anna, and Siggy all praise Bob for his actions, ignoring the recovering Leo. As Bob further integrates himself with the Marvin’s, Leo is feeling more left out and comments that it should be time for Bob to leave but it starts to storm and Fay invites Bob to stay the night. Bob ends up sharing a room with Siggy and they end up talking about Siggy’s obsession with death then start joking around and yelling, causing Leo to enter the room and chastising them. Early the next morning, Leo goes to wake Bob, as he wants him out of the house before Good Morning America gets there but the camera crew arrive early and when they find out Bob is one of Leo’s patients, invite him to be on the show with Leo. During the show, Leo tenses up while Bob tells everyone about how the book helped him and can help others, essentially stealing the spotlight away from Leo. After the interview, Leo yells at Bob and his family, then apologizes and invites Bob to go for a drive so they can have some alone time to talk. Leo takes Bob to a hospital to be committed, but when he returns home, Fay says the hospital is on the phone, and Leo heads back to learn that the hospital staff are releasing Bob, as they don’t see any reason to have him admitted, but Leo’s colleague is worried about Leo. On the drive back home, Leo kicks Bob out of the car and leaves him on the side of the road but when Leo gets pulled over, he sees Bob has hitched a ride in a truck and as he passes them, Bob yells to the officer to have Leo home by 7. Leo ends up getting a flat tire and covered in mud from a passing car before he gets home, only to find that Fay has thrown him a surprise party for his birthday. When he sees Bob is there and puts arms around his sister Lily, Leo snaps and attacks Bob. After Leo is taken to bed and another doctor prescribes some medicine for him, Fay talks with Bob and convinces him that it would be best if he not be there when Leo wakes up. Meanwhile, Leo sneaks out of the house and breaks into the general store, stealing a shotgun and 20 lbs of black powder. Leo then finds Bob as he is walking back to the Guttmans and forces him into the woods, avoiding his family who is out looking for him. Leo then ties Bob up and straps the satchels of black powder to him, calling it “Death Therapy”, then happily heads back home, believing he will finally be rid of Bob. Meanwhile, Bob uses the situation to overcome his fears and is able to free himself, then goes to the Marvin’s house to thank Leo. Leo is sitting on the dock when his family returns and when they tell him Bob is gone, he acts surprised, saying he didn’t hear anything. Suddenly, Bob appears carrying a cake and when Leo asks Bob about the satchels, Bob says he left them inside and Leo turns to look at the house, just as it explodes and catches fire, causing the Guttmans to cheer from their boat. Leo goes into a catatonic state for several months, coming out of it just as Bob marries Lily. In a scroll at the end of the movie, it is learned that Bob went back to school to become a psychologist and wrote a best selling book called “Death Therapy”, which Leo is suing him over the rights.
What About Bob? met with mostly praise from the critics, holding an 83% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The critical consensus on the site is, “Bill Murray and Richard Dreyfuss’ chemistry helps make the most of a familiar yet durable premise, elevating What About Bob? into the upper ranks of ’90’s comedies.” According to interviews with both stars, Bill Murray and Richard Dreyfuss did not get along during filming of this movie. The tension actually helped contribute to the dynamic between their characters on screen. The movie was a success at the box office, earning $63.7 million off of a $35 million budget.
This is still a really funny movie to watch, though I can see where some might criticize some of it’s portrayals of mental health. I thought the acting was great, with Bill Murray and Richard Dreyfuss doing great jobs in their roles of Bob and Leo respectively. The fact that they didn’t get along in real life actually makes the confrontational dynamic between them feel more authentic and helped make the comedy a lot better. I do feel a little bad for Julie Hagerty (Fay), Kathryn Erbe (Anna), and Charlie Korsmo (Siggy), as they were essentially just living props that helped build up the confrontation between Bob and Leo, giving it a much more personal feel. I thought the story was great, as Bob’s phobia’s and obsession with Leo ended up almost transferring to Leo; as he became obsessed with both getting rid of Bob and proving that Bob is crazy, though everyone else felt he was fine. The comedy was great, with some great timing among the dialogue and banter mixed with a few physical comedy aspects thrown in to make things a little more interesting. A really funny movie and definitely one worth watching when you need a laugh.
Rating: 4 out of 5