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"Is this a radical new form of therapy?"
on June 26, 2006
Masterfully directed by Frank Oz, this comedy is one of the brightest spots in a long line of tasteless 90's comedies. In an era where comedies are dominated by sex, crudity, and horrid language, "What About Bob?" is a breath of fresh air. The comedy is a harmless and sinless masterpiece of irony with chuckles. The head-scratching, laugh-at-loud compulsive mannerisms combined with symptoms of paranoia from patient Bob Wiley (B. Murray) pushes this film to the top of clean comedies. Bob has issues. Bob is afraid to touch things without a handkerchief. Bob is afraid of crowds. Bob has fears of his bladder exploding. Bob is afraid of anything and everything outside his apartment. But Bob finds hope in a new and famous psychiatrist named Dr. Leo Marvin (R. Dreyfuss). Dr. Marvin is at the pinacole of his career with his new best selling help-book that has earned him fame. When Dr. Marvin takes Bob on as his client, he has no idea what he's getting himself into.
Bob goes bananas when his new doctor, Leo Marvin, decides to go on vacation and will not be available to treat Bob for a whole month. Desperate for his doctor, Bob tracks Dr. Marvin down. The relaxing Leo Marvin has his vacation interrupted and imposed upon by a friend-seeking Bob Wiley, who wants to enjoy Dr. Marvin's vacation time with him. Dr. Marvin, shocked by Bob's behavior, is unable to convince Bob to leave. Before Dr. Marvin can begin to realize that Bob has latched onto him, Bob is aleady befriending Dr. Marvin's entire household; which includes his wife (J. Hagerty) and son (C. Korsmo) and daughter. Resentment and jealousy become evident in Dr. Marvin as his growing frustration with Bob intensifies. As Bob grows more popular with everyone, Dr. Marvin sinks into a state of irrational hatred toward his new patient. Eventually Bob shows evidence of progress as Dr. Marvin displays signs of regress.
Even though the movie is a great comedy, it is truly a psychology film. It takes a neurotic, crazy man--Bob Wiley--and puts him into a setting he doesn't belong in, and he improves. On the flip side it takes a successful, sane man--Dr. Marvin--and places him into situations he doesn't want, and he deteriorates. The irony is the patient becomes sane as the doctor turns insane. It's a very clever concept by Oz and it should be applauded, because it makes the movie very funny.
No doubt that the film succeeds in its comic aim and ironic formulas, while sending a distinct message that it's all right not to be entirely sane and serious. Bob Wiley is the perfect, likeable looney while Dr. Marvin is the serious stiff that we all want to see lighten up a tad.
The movie is rated "PG," with hardly any offensive elements. There is no sex, no nudity, no violence (although hints of killing is mentioned), and mild language. A joke that Bob tells has a crude reference, but it's nothing to shutter from. The film is quite clean in an age of film-making that has been anything but.
In summary, "What About Bob?" is the perfect family comedy. It is light-hearted, genuine, and funny for everyone. If any criticism could be applied is that it is simply not long enough and goes by too fast. To say the least, it's a gem worthy of praise and laughs.