What About Bob?
1991, PG, 99 min. Directed by Frank Oz. Starring Bill Murray, Richard Dreyfuss, Julie Hagerty, Charlie Kormos.
REVIEWED By Steve Davis, Fri., May 24, 1991
What About Bob? is a one-joke movie, but what a funny joke! A variation on the houseguest-from-hell theme, this comedy about a textbook neurotic driving his psychiatrist crazy is predictable enough, but with Murray and Dreyfuss butting heads as the patient and doctor, you almost forget you've seen it all before. The upside logic of What About Bob? owes a lot to the presence of Murray as the multiphobic character in the title who terrorizes his analyst while the latter is on vacation with his family in New Hampshire. (In some respects, this is a comedic Fatal Attraction, set in the context of another type of relationship.) This is a role perfectly suited for Murray's loopy, lazy sense of humor; one look at him, and you believe that he's a certifiable nut. As the psychiatrist, Dreyfuss spends most of his screen time reacting to Murray's canny ability to ingratiate himself into Dreyfuss's private life. Although he takes it a little too far by the film's end, it's still funny to watch Dreyfuss's priggish, egotistical doctor gradually lose control in dealing with Bob, who everyone else thinks is endearing, even if a little eccentric. What About Bob? takes a few jabs at the psychiatric profession -- the film's most astute scene has a desperate Dreyfuss trying to communicate with his daughter with hand puppets, as if she were in therapy -- but director Oz doesn't go for the jugular. (A hysterical scene involving Murray's performance of the Heimlich maneuver on Dreyfuss comes closest to pushing the envelope.) This is an amiable comedy if there ever was one. That's no criticism: if all innocuous comedies were as satisfying as What About Bob?, you wouldn't always feels the need for some subversive humor.