What About Bob?
|What About Bob?|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Frank Oz|
|Produced by||Laura Ziskin|
|Screenplay by||Tom Schulman|
|Story by||Alvin Sargent|
|Music by||Miles Goodman|
|Edited by||Anne V. Coates|
|Distributed by||Buena Vista Pictures|
|May 17, 1991|
|Box office||$63.7 million|
What About Bob? is a 1991 American comedy film directed by Frank Oz and starring Bill Murray and Richard Dreyfuss. Murray plays Bob Wiley, an irritating patient who follows his egotistical psychiatrist Dr. Leo Marvin (Dreyfuss) on vacation. When the unstable Bob befriends the other members of Dr. Leo's family, it pushes the doctor over the edge.
Bob Wiley has great work ethic and treats people well, but he suffers from multiple phobias and is divorced because his ex-wife likes Neil Diamond. Despite regular therapy, he makes little progress and his neuroses compel him to seek constant reassurance from his therapists.
Exhausted by Bob's high-maintenance conditions and invasions of personal boundaries, his current therapist refers him to the egotistical Dr. Leo Marvin, who believes his recently published book "Baby Steps" will make him a household name. Bob feels good about their initial session, but Dr. Marvin dismisses Bob in a rush to his long-standing, month-long family vacation. Unable to cope, Bob follows Leo to Lake Winnipesaukee, New Hampshire. Leo is annoyed, but sees Bob's desperation and tells him to "take a vacation" from his problems. Bob seems to have made a breakthrough, but the next morning, he tells Leo that he will also be vacationing at Lake Winnipesaukee as a guest of the Guttmans, who hold a grudge against Leo for purchasing the lakeside home they had been saving for years to buy.
Leo dismisses Bob's attempts at friendship as he believes being friends with a patient is beneath him, but Bob ingratiates himself with Leo's family and relates to the problems of Leo's kids, Anna and Sigmund, in contrast with their father's clinical approach. Bob begins to enjoy life, going sailing with Anna and helping Sigmund dive, which Leo had been unsuccessfully trying for years. After Leo angrily pushes Bob into the lake, Leo's wife Fay invites Bob to dinner and he accepts, believing Leo's slights against him are either accidental or part of his therapy. After dinner, a thunderstorm forces Bob to spend the night. Leo wants Bob out of the house early the next morning before Good Morning America arrives to interview him about "Baby Steps". The TV crew, oblivious to Leo's discomfort, suggest having Bob on the show as well. Leo makes a fool out of himself during the interview while Bob is relaxed and speaks glowingly of Leo and the book, unintentionally stealing the spotlight.
Leo throws a tantrum and attempts to have Bob committed, but Bob is soon released after befriending the institution staff and telling them therapy jokes, demonstrating his sanity and showing that he has made real therapeutic progress due to his time with Dr. Marvin's family. Forced to retrieve Bob, Leo abandons him in the middle of nowhere, but Bob quickly gets a ride back to Leo's house while various mishaps delay Leo. Returning after nightfall, Leo is surprised by the birthday party Fay has secretly planned for him and is delighted to see his beloved sister Lily. When Bob appears and puts his arm around Lily, Leo becomes completely psychotic and attacks him. Bob remains oblivious to Leo's hostility until Fay explains Leo's grudge against Bob, who agrees to leave. Leo breaks into a general store, stealing a shotgun and 20 pounds of explosives and kidnapping Bob at gunpoint. Leo leads him deep into the woods and ties him up with the explosives, calling it "death therapy", and returns to the house, gleefully preparing his cover story. Believing the explosives are props as a metaphor for his problems, Bob applies Leo's "Baby Steps" approach and manages to free himself of his restraints and remaining fears; he reunites with the Marvins and praises Leo for curing him. The Marvins' vacation home detonates after Bob reveals that he left the explosives inside. Horrified, Leo is rendered catatonic and institutionalized while his medical license is revoked for attempted murder.
Some time later, the still-catatonic Leo is brought to Bob and Lily'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 book titled "Death Therapy" and that Leo is suing him for the rights.
- Bill Murray as Bob Wiley
- Richard Dreyfuss as Dr. Leo Marvin
- Julie Hagerty as Fay Marvin
- Charlie Korsmo as Sigmund "Siggy" Marvin
- Kathryn Erbe as Anna Marvin
- Tom Aldredge as Mr. Guttman
- Susan Willis as Mrs. Guttman
- Roger Bowen as Phil
- Fran Brill as Lily Marvin-Wiley
- Doris Belack as Dr. Catherine Tomsky
Before Frank Oz was hired to direct, Garry Marshall was considered, and Woody Allen was approached to play Dr. Leo Marvin. Allen was also considered to direct and possibly co-write the script with Tom Schulman. However, because Allen had always generated his own projects rather than getting handed an existing property to make his own, Oz was officially hired to direct. Allen also declined the role of Dr. Marvin, thus Richard Dreyfuss was ultimately cast. Patrick Stewart was also considered for the role. Early in development, Robin Williams was attached to the project.
For the scene in which Bob accidentally blows the house up, producers used a 3/-sized model replica of the actual house that they detonated on a nearby lot.
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 where Leo tries to commit Bob is actually the local Elks National Home for retirees in the nearby town of Bedford, Virginia.
Murray confirmed that he improvised a lot in the film.
Oz admitted in interviews that there was tension on the set during the making of the film. In addition, both Murray and Dreyfuss have confirmed in separate interviews that they did not get along with each other in real life:
It's entertaining—everybody knows somebody like that Bob guy. (Richard Dreyfuss and I) didn't get along on the movie particularly, but it worked for the movie. I mean, I drove him nuts, and he encouraged me to drive him nuts.— Bill Murray, March 19, 1993 interview with Entertainment Weekly
How about it? Funny movie. Terribly unpleasant experience. We didn't get along, me and Bill Murray. But I've got to give it to him: I don't like him, but he makes me laugh even now. I'm also jealous that he's a better golfer than I am. It's a funny movie. No one ever comes up to you and says, "I identify with the patient." They always say, "I have patients like that. I identify with your character." No one ever says that they're willing to identify with the other character.— Richard Dreyfuss, October 8, 2009 interview with The A.V. Club
In subsequent interviews, Dreyfuss reiterated what he said of his experience working with Murray, notably when he guest appeared at Fan Expo Canada in 2017. Dreyfuss further alleged in 2019 that at one point during the production, Murray screamed at him while intoxicated, telling him “Everyone hates you! You are tolerated!” and then threw an ashtray at him. When Murray guest appeared on The Howard Stern Show in 2014, Howard Stern asked him if he intended to annoy Dreyfuss. Murray responded, "I really try to make the other actor look good whenever I can (...) In this particular film, annoying Dreyfuss, which I kind of got to enjoy I gotta confess—but I didn't try to annoy him off the screen." Although neither of them have crossed paths since the release of the film, Dreyfuss confirmed in a 2020 interview that he has forgiven Murray.
Producer Laura Ziskin recalled having a disagreement with Murray which led him to toss her into a lake. Ziskin confirmed in 2003, "Bill also threatened to throw me across the parking lot and then broke my sunglasses and threw them across the parking lot. I was furious and outraged at the time, but having produced a dozen movies, I can safely say it is not common behavior."
What About Bob? was a financial success. Made on a $39 million budget, it grossed $64 million domestically during its original theatrical run, Buena Vista's highest-grossing live action film of the year.
Critical reaction was also favorable. Review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a score of 84% based on reviews from 43 critics with an average rating of 6.48/10. The site's consensus reads: "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."
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 gave it a "thumbs down" rating and 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.
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.
In April 2015, it was reported that Richard Dreyfuss sued The Walt Disney Company over the film's profits. Dreyfuss has claimed that Disney refused to hire his chosen auditor, Robinson and Co. Christine Turner Wagner, widow of Turner & Hooch (1989) producer Raymond Wagner, is also involved with the lawsuit.
- Andreeva, Nellie (January 25, 2017). "'What About Bob?' Female Reboot Gets Comedy Pilot Order At NBC". Deadline. Retrieved May 22, 2019.
was a critical and boxoffice success
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