Bill Murray stars as a neurotic goofball named Bob Wiley so obsessed that he follows his shrink on vacation. With excellent characterizations, the film would be recommended for all ages if it weren't for some brief outbursts of obscenity that Bob utters to prove he's not faking a profanity complex.
Bill Murray pulls out all the stops in WHAT ABOUT BOB? to create a new kind of neurotic goofball character so obsessed that he follows his shrink on vacation.
Bob Wiley is a genuine New York nut case and a multi-phobic personality with a long list of peculiar aberrations, including a fear of elevators and of touching things as well as an irrational fixation on his new psychiatrist, Dr. Leo Marvin.
Author of a best-selling self-help book called “Baby Steps,” Dr. Marvin appears to be Bob’s last chance for rehabilitation from his weird forms of multiple mania. However, just as blundering Bob begins to see a glimmer of hope from Marvin’s “Baby Steps” therapy, the diffident doctor goes on vacation with his family.
Panic-stricken and exhibiting an excessive/compulsive obsession to follow Dr. Marvin, Bob ferrets out the doctor’s serene New Hampshire vacation paradise, arriving there with the goldfish that he keeps in a jar tied around his neck. Dr. Marvin, of course, is less than thrilled, especially since the egotistical psychiatrist is awaiting the arrival of a “Good Morning America” television crew that is planning to interview him.
Lunacy prevails as Bob worms his way into the doctor’s life, turning the tables on their already shaky professional relationship, while innocently annihilating what little semblance of rational behavior the good doctor has left. Basically, Bob does stuff to make Dr. Marvin’s family and everyone else think that he (Bob) is wonderful and Dr. Marvin is a schmuck.
Jealous of the headway that Bob makes into his own family (not helped by the locals who note, “Hey, you’re the guy on “Good Morning America”), Dr. Marvin tries several psychiatric approaches to rid himself of Bob, all of which backfire. Until, finally, Dr. Marvin resorts to “death therapy” (he plans to blow up Bob), and the question arises as to who is really crazy and who isn’t.
If WHAT ABOUT BOB? is meant to be an attack on psychiatry, or more specifically, on all the self-help books currently flooding the market, then in an uproariously funny manner it succeeds. For instance, Bob says to Dr. Marvin, “You’re book has done a lot of good. I’m walking proof of that.” At wits end, Dr. Marvin (played convincingly by Richard Dreyfuss) convulses hysterically.
Bill Murray is cast even better as Bob Wiley. Not so much a cross between his Todd character (from the Todd and Lisa Lupner sketches on “Saturday Night Live”) and some other caricature, Bob is more of a new character altogether. With sunken facial expressions and a certain droop to his slumping presence, his patient neuroses are played to perfection with hilarious accuracy.
The only problem with WHAT ABOUT BOB? are some early outbursts of obscenity which Bob utters to prove that he’s not faking a profanity complex. He later resorts to the same tactic to win the friendship of Marvin’s son, Sigmund (To continue the Freudian analogy, the daughter’s name is Anna). Had these elements been deleted, the film could be recommended to almost all ages, but as it is, cannot.
(LL) 21 obscenities and 5 profanities (mostly "Oh, my God").