Starring: Bill Murray, Richard Dreyfuss, Julie Hagerty
Director: Frank Oz
Running Time: 96 mins
What About Bob? is an American film about an acclaimed psychiatrist who briefly takes on a new patient before going on vacation for a month. However, he is enraged when the patient tracks him down, and begins ruining every moment of his holiday.
I really enjoyed this film. Apart from being a simply silly comedy that’ll give you a good amount of laughs throughout, it’s a surprisingly effective take on a relatively generic story that works principally because of two great central performances.
It’s a plot that I’m sure you’ve seen sometime or other before. One member of a family hates a clearly irritating person, but loses their mind when the rest of their family somehow find that person really endearing. Normally, it’s a premise that makes for an extremely annoying watch, as it’s impossible to fathom how on earth anybody could possibly not hate such an irritating person.
However, that’s not the case here. Rather than being an annoying watch like normal, What About Bob does a great job to make the characters fit well with the story at hand, and it makes the premise work so much more effectively than anything I’ve seen before.
Why does it work so well? Well, the main reason is definitely the performances. Bill Murray is brilliant as the mentally disturbed Bob, and hugely funny right from the start. However, rather than just acting like a complete idiot or psychopath, there is an element of Murray’s performance that is endearing. Sure, his character’s behaviour is pretty unacceptable at first, but you really do grow to like him thanks to Murray putting in such an entertaining and likable shift.
On the flipside, Richard Dreyfuss plays the psychiatrist whose life is effectively ruined by the arrival of his patient. Normally, any sane viewers would side with him, but Dreyfuss plays his stuck-up, self-absorbed and clearly uncaring character so well that he’s a lot more hateful than Bill Murray’s character is annoying. As a result, you don’t really want to support Dreyfuss’ character as he attempts to get rid of his patient, meaning that Bill Murray seems all the less awful.
As a result, the premise works really well, and you can actually relate to the all of the main characters, rather than just one of them being a cartoonishly idiotic madman.
Another bonus of this film is the comedy. It’s not the biggest, most hilarious film I’ve ever seen, but the humour is generally a lot more intelligent than I expected. Whilst there are a good few silly slapstick jokes, the majority of the comedy here derives from the rivalry between the two lead characters, and the intense frustration on Dreyfuss’ side makes for some hilarious outbursts and mishaps along the way.
Overall, I had a lot of fun with What About Bob?. It’s a consistently entertaining comedy with a lot of great laughs throughout that takes a generic concept and makes it work very well, thanks to two excellent central performances, and that’s why I’m giving it a 7.5.