What About Bob?
What About Bob? is a 1991 American black 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 Marvin's family, it pushes the doctor over the edge.
|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|
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Bob Wiley is a good-natured man with great work ethic, but he suffers from multiple phobias and is divorced because his ex-wife likes Neil Diamond. While he regularly attends therapy, he makes little progress and his neuroses compel him to seek reassurance at all times from his therapists, much to their chagrin. Exhausted from Bob's high-maintenance conditions and invasions of personal boundaries, his current therapist refers him to a colleague, Dr. Leo Marvin. Leo, a successful but egotistical therapist in his own right, believes that he is about to become famous as he publishes his book, Baby Steps, his personal therapy method that he hopes will become a national trend and propel him into a household name. Bob, upon meeting with Dr. Marvin, feels good about the results of an initial session, but Marvin dismisses Bob in a rush to take a long-standing family vacation to Lake Winnipesaukee, New Hampshire for a month. Unable to cope, Bob follows Leo to his vacation home. Leo is annoyed because he does not see patients on vacation, but seeing how desperate Bob is, he 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 decided to take a vacation in spirit and fact at Lake Winnipesaukee as a guest of the Guttmans, a couple who own a coffee shop and happily welcome Bob as their guest. The couple encourages Bob to be around Leo, as they hold a grudge against Dr. Marvin for purchasing the lakeside home they had been saving for years to buy.
Bob suggests that they start a friendship, but Leo thinks being friends with a patient is beneath him and attempts to avoid any further contact, as Bob's very presence ruins his ideas of a peaceful, non-working vacation. However, Bob swiftly ingratiates himself with Leo's family, who think Bob may have some foibles but is otherwise a balanced and sociable man. Leo's children, Anna and Sigmund, find that Bob relates well to their problems, in contrast with their father's clinical approach. Bob gains an enjoyment of life from his association with them; he 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 to him and the kids. Bob, who believes Leo's slights against him are accidental and/or part of his therapy, accepts the invitation. 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 television crew arrives early and, oblivious to Leo's discomfort, suggest having Bob on the show as well to show the effectiveness of the book. 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.
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 telling them therapy jokes, easily demonstrating his sanity and, ironically showing that he has made real therapeutic progress due to his time with Dr. Marvin's family and unintentional "treatment". 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 various 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. 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 that Leo has a grudge against Bob, who then agrees to leave. Meanwhile, Leo breaks into a general store, stealing a shotgun and 20 pounds of explosives. Leo kidnaps Bob at gunpoint and leads him deep into the woods, ties him up and straps the explosives onto him, calling it "death therapy". Leo then returns to the house, gleefully preparing his cover story. Believing the explosives to be props and 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 remaining fears; he reunites with the Marvins and praises Leo for curing him with "death therapy". The Marvins' vacation home detonates after Bob reveals that he left the explosives inside. Leo is so horrified by the sight of this that he is rendered catatonic and his medical license is revoked for trying to murder a patient.
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, thus Richard Dreyfuss was ultimately cast. Patrick Stewart was also considered for the role. Early in development, Robin Williams was attached to the project.
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
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 filmed in and around the town of Moneta, Virginia, located on Smith Mountain Lake. 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 to November 21, 1990.
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 which Leo tries to commit Bob in 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.
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.
Critical reaction was also favorable. Review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a score of 83% based on reviews from 42 critics with an average rating of 6.47/10. 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."
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.
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