What About Bob?

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This article is about the 1991 film. For other uses, see What About Bob? (disambiguation).
What About Bob?
What About Bob film.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Frank Oz
Produced by Laura Ziskin
Written by Tom Schulman
Story by Alvin Sargent
Laura Ziskin
Starring Bill Murray
Richard Dreyfuss
Music by Miles Goodman
Cinematography Michael Ballhaus
Edited by Anne V. Coates
Distributed by Buena Vista Pictures
Release dates
May 17, 1991
Running time
98 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $35 million[1]
Box office $63,707,829[2]

What About Bob? is a 1991 comedy film directed by Frank Oz, and starring Bill Murray and Richard Dreyfuss. Murray plays Bob Wiley, a psychiatric patient who follows his egotistical psychiatrist Dr. Leo Marvin (Dreyfuss) on vacation. When the unstable Bob befriends the other members of Marvin's family, it pushes the doctor over the edge.

This film is number 43 on Bravo's "100 Funniest Movies".[3]


Bob Wiley is a good-natured man who suffers from multiple phobias. He feels good about the results of an initial session with Dr. Leo Marvin, a New York psychiatrist with a huge ego, but is immediately left on his own with a copy of Leo's new book, Baby Steps, when the doctor goes on vacation to Lake Winnipesaukee, New Hampshire. Unable to cope, Bob follows Leo to his vacation home. Leo is annoyed because he doesn't see patients on vacation. Seeing how desperate Bob is, Leo gives Bob a prescription telling him to take a vacation from his problems. Bob seems to have made a breakthrough, but the next morning shows up and says that he decided to take a vacation both in spirit and in fact, and that he is a guest of the Guttmans, a couple who own a coffee shop and hold a grudge against Leo because he purchased the home they had been scrimping and saving for years to buy, and as such are more than happy to have Bob as their guest and encourage him to be around Leo.

Bob suggests that they start a friendship, although Leo thinks being friends with a patient is beneath him and attempts to avoid any further contact, but Bob gets along fine with the rest of Leo's family, who think Bob may have some foibles but is otherwise a balanced, sociable man. Leo's children Anna and Sigmund find that Bob relates well to their problems, in contrast with their father's clinical approach, while Bob begins to gain an enjoyment of life from his association with them. Bob goes sailing with Anna and helps Sigmund to dive into the lake, which Leo was unable to help him with. Leo then angrily pushes Bob into the lake and Leo’s wife, Fay, insists on inviting Bob to dinner to apologize, which Bob accepts (because he chalks up Leo's slights against him as accidental). At dinner, Bob's comment on Baby Steps causes Leo to choke, and Bob saves his life by repeatedly and violently landing his full weight on the doctor's prostrated form. A thunderstorm then forces Bob to spend the night. Leo wants Bob out of the house by 6:30. But the crew of Good Morning America shows up early and suggest that having Bob on the show would publicize Baby Steps. Leo stumbles during the interview while Bob is relaxed, speaking glowingly of Leo and the book and unintentionally steals the spotlight.

Outraged, Leo throws a tantrum and then attempts to have Bob committed, but Bob is soon released after befriending the staff of the institution and demonstrating his sanity by telling psychology-themed jokes. Forced to retrieve him, Leo then abandons Bob in the middle of nowhere, but Bob quickly gets a ride back to Leo's house while a variety of mishaps delay Leo until nightfall. Leo is then surprised by the birthday party that Fay has been secretly planning for him, and he is delighted to see his beloved sister Lily. But when Bob appears and puts his arm around Lily, Leo becomes completely enraged and attacks him. Bob remains oblivious to Leo’s hostility, and Fay explains that Leo has been acting unacceptably as a result of an inexplicable grudge against Bob, and Bob agrees to leave. Meanwhile, Leo breaks into the town's general store, stealing a shotgun and 20 pounds of explosives. Bob becomes terrified while walking through the dark woods and is easily kidnapped at gunpoint by Leo, who straps the explosives to Bob and ties him up, calling it "death therapy." Believing the explosives to be props used as a metaphor for his problems, Bob applies Leo's "Baby Steps" approach and manages to free himself both of his physical restraints and his fears; he reunites with Leo and his family, praising Leo for curing him with "death therapy". A frantic Leo asks Bob where he put the black powder, to which Bob replies "in the house" just before the Marvins' vacation home detonates. This leaves Leo in a catatonic state.

Some time later, the still-catatonic Leo is brought to Lily and Bob's wedding. Upon their pronouncement as husband and wife, Leo regains his senses and screams, "No!" but the sentiment is lost in the family's excitement at his recovery. Text at the end reveals that Bob went back to school and became a psychologist, then wrote a best selling novel titled 'Death Therapy.' Leo is suing him for the rights.



What About Bob? was a financial success. It grossed $63 million domestically during its original theatrical run plus an additional $29 million in video rentals and sales bringing its overall domestic gross to $92 million.[2]

Critical reaction was also favorable. Review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a score of 82% based on reviews from 39 critics with the consensus: "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 '90s comedies."[4]

When the television program Siskel and Ebert reviewed the film, Roger Ebert gave the film a "thumbs up" rating praising the different performances of Bill Murray and Richard Dreyfuss onscreen together as well as most of the film's humor. He said it was Bill Murray's best movie since Ghostbusters in 1984. Gene Siskel, on the other hand, was not a fan of the film and gave it a "thumbs down." He felt Murray gave a very funny and enjoyable performance in the film, but was rather upset by the Dreyfuss character and his angry and arrogant behaviors. He felt it would have been funnier if Dreyfuss had not given such an angry performance in the film and said that Dreyfuss ultimately ruined the film for him.[citation needed]

Leonard Maltin also gave the film a favorable review: in Leonard Maltin's Movie and Video Guide he gives the film three stars out of a possible four, saying it's "a very funny outing with Murray and Dreyfuss approaching the relationship of the road runner and the coyote." Maltin faulted the film only for its ending, which he found very abrupt and silly.[5]


The movie was filmed in and around the town of Moneta, Virginia, located on Smith Mountain Lake.[6] Production had to move south because at the real Lake Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire, the leaves were already turning for the fall season. While there is a lake in New Hampshire named Winnipesaukee, there is no town by that name (as the film implies). Filming lasted from August 27–November 21, 1990.

For the scene in which Bob accidentally blows the house up, producers used a 3/4-sized model replica of the actual house that they detonated on a nearby lot.[6]

The scenes of Bob arriving in town on the bus with his goldfish were filmed in downtown Moneta, which was spruced-up and repainted for the movie. The local institute which Leo tries to commit Bob in is actually the local Elks National Home for retirees in the nearby town of Bedford, Virginia.

Originally director Frank Oz had Woody Allen in mind for the role of Dr. Leo Marvin, given Allen's reputation for quirkiness in his films. Allen declined the role, and Richard Dreyfuss ultimately was cast.[7] Patrick Stewart was also considered for the role.[8] Early in development Robin Williams had been attached to the project.[9]


  1. ^ "What About Bob? (1991)". IMDb. Amazon.com. Retrieved 16 November 2012. 
  2. ^ a b "What About Bob? (1991)". Box Office Mojo. IMDB. Retrieved February 21, 2012. 
  3. ^ "Bravo's 100 Funniest Movies of All Time". Boston.com. Retrieved 16 November 2012. 
  4. ^ "What About Bob?". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2013-03-25. 
  5. ^ Leonard Maltin's Movie Guide ISBN 0-451-21265-7
  6. ^ a b "Then & Now: The Lake House From "What About Bob?"". Hookedonhouses.net. Retrieved 2013-03-25. 
  7. ^ [1][dead link]
  8. ^ "What About Bob?". Tcm.com. Retrieved 2013-04-06. 
  9. ^ Leonard Klady (June 25, 1989). "Two for the Road". Los Angeles Times. 

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