What about Bob? (1991)

whataboutbob_1991_poster
What about Bob? (1991)
  • Time: 99 min
  • Genre: Comedy
  • Director: Frank Oz
  • Cast: Bill Murray, Richard Dreyfuss, Julie Hagerty

Storyline:

Bob Wiley is a neurotic and manipulative man who has a habit of clinging onto his therapists. His last one, not being able to deal with him, sends him to Leo Marvin. After having just one session, Bob thinks the world of Dr. Marvin. However, the doctor’s leaving to spend the rest of the summer with his family, which throws Bob into utter despair. He calls the doctor constantly demanding to see him, but the doctor says he is on vacation and cuts Bob off. He manages to find out where he is and goes there. The doctor’s family takes a liking to him, but the doctor feels that he is just intrusive. And no matter what he does, Bob just won’t go away, and everybody thinks that Leo is being mean.

One review

  • There have been movies released before about crazy or uncontrollable characters let loose to follow a certain somebody and drive them up a wall. The most recognizable of comedies that had this kind of set up were films like Ben Stiller’s dark comedy The Cable Guy (1996), Duplex (2003) or Kurt Russell’s Captain Ron (1992). Both of which were about main characters’ mental issues that somehow were able to get away with everything, meanwhile simultaneously annoying the living crap out of the person they cling on to. This is no different on a narrative level; the formula is all there. The only change are the leads, their positions on the social ladder and the location. The real element that will win over its viewers will be Bill Murray – if you’re a big fan of him.

    To be realistic it is not a bad performance and Bill Murray doesn’t play the worst character. However, he’s still not that likable. In fact, none of the characters any actor plays is that likable. The day before Dr. Leo Marvin (Richard Dreyfuss) leaves for vacation, a fellow psychiatrist transfers one of his patients, Bob Wiley (Bill Murray) to be checked out. After visiting Dr. Marvin, it is revealed to Bob that Dr. Marvin is going on vacation. With that, Bob does everything he can to see his Dr. again for psychiatric help. Tom Schulman best known for writing Dead Poets Society (1989) and Honey, I Shrunk the Kids (1989), penned the script for this comedy with the legendary Frank Oz directing.

    The strange thing is, like stated before, the execution isn’t anything new. The direction is too well known – crazy person introduced to potential host, host becomes victim of crazy person’s antics while nobody else believes them. Unlike The Cable Guy (1996) and Duplex (2003) which were mean spirited comedies and Captain Ron (1992) being more dimwitted than anything else, this just plays out irritating. Thankfully, Bill Murray’s character wasn’t written to be mean spirited, in fact his role is more innocent by nature. The problem is he just doesn’t take a hint when someone says leave. With that Bill Murray comes off as more obnoxious than anything else. He’s not sick-minded or a jerk, so that kind of makes him acceptable but not likable really because there’s little to sympathize for. Bob could be a likable character if he was written more as a character than knows he’s causing trouble but can’t help it. Instead, Bob causes pain to others and doesn’t even notice it. Then again though, that may be due to his dumb surrounding characters.

    It truly is amazing to how oblivious people can be. Since when are family members so accepting of a professional’s patient to show up on vacation, sleep with them in the same room and eat at their table. Not to mention teaching their kids bad words. Doesn’t that raise a couple, if not more than a couple red flags? Haven’t they heard of the phrase, “don’t bring your work home with you”? Dr. Marvin seems to be the only one who notices and understands that. It’s weird because everyone else is so accepting of Bob and yet they don’t deal with him in the same manner as Dr. Marvin. Plus, some of the smallest things Bob does everyone finds it hilarious, especially Mrs. Marvin (Julie Hagerty) who is quite annoying too. Saying “MmmmmmMMMMmmm” after every bite of food at the dinner table really stirs up that many chuckles ? It’s because of their lack of concern and care for the victim that makes them unlikable as well and contain no charm. Clearly stated in the movie, one of the reasons why people like Bob is because he’s fun and old man Dr. Marvin wasn’t.

    Maybe writer Tom Schulman was trying to get the message across; that you can’t live life being a stick-in-the-mud all the time (meaning relax now and then). But aside from one subplot about Dr. Marvin’s son trying to learn how to dive, there is no indication of Dr. Marvin being a father who can’t have fun. The only reason why nobody finds Dr. Marvin fun is because he’s trying to get rid of a patient that is following him and can’t get rid of. Wouldn’t that make you act rotten too? These supporting characters are so thickheaded. The only actor that is funny on occasion is Richard Dreyfuss. The reason for this being that even going back to the years of Jaws (1975), when Dreyfuss got frustrated, his yelling was more comical than it was dramatic. Nonetheless, since this is a comedy, Dreyfuss is funny in a number of areas because his character has no other way of dealing with the problem (being Bob). Cinematography this time by Michael Ballhaus wasn’t anything important, it doesn’t showcase much. The music however, composed by Miles Goodman is alright, although it does sound very close to that of his more popular score a year later from The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992). It’s not terrible but it isn’t good comedy either, unless you’re a true Bill Murray fan.

    Hardcore Bill Murray fans should have no problem with this but if you tire of formulaic host comedies where some crazy person makes everyone turn on the already label victim, it’ll be a frustrating sit. It’s not the worst because Richard Dreyfuss is funny and Bill Murray’s role isn’t mean spirited, but the whole play out is just annoying to sit through anyway.

    Points Earned –> 4:10

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