On May 17, 1991, Buena Vista took the Bill Murray and Richard Dreyfuss gonzo comedy What About Bob? to theaters nationwide. The Hollywood Reporter’s original review is below:
What about a comedy about a guy with a multiphobic personality who’s tormented with constant panic? Sound just a tad sicko and a trifle politically incorrect? Wonderfully, yes!
Despite probable second opinions by the mental health profession and the terminally serious, What About Bob?, the Bill Murray-Richard Dreyfuss laugh-getter, should provide high therapy for audiences who have endured good-movie deprivation through this dismal spring.
And, as Norman Cousins wrote, laughter is the best panacea for health problems. The side effect of all this moviegoer chuckling will be a healthy dose of loot for Buena Vista.
Bill Murray solidifies his status as the all-American class clown with his wholly bully portrayal of dysfunctional recluse Bob Wiley, a man so smitten with phobias he can barely complete life’s most minimal tasks without grievous stress.
Bob’s such a headcase and an around-the-clock challenge that his shrink pawns him off on a hated colleague (Richard Dreyfuss), a publicity-mongering poop who is about to take off on a month’s lakeside vacation. The good doctor, in addition to his enlarged ego, has some problems of his own, which make yet for “another vacation that’s not a vacation for his family”: a frazzled wife (Julie Hagerty), a pressured boy (Charlie Korsmo) and a neglected teenage girl (Kathryn Erbe).
Indeed, the doc has declared perfection must reign for the vacation, and all activities are subordinated to his impending appearance on Good Morning America, an ego-gratification headtrip to shamelessly hawk his self-help best-seller.
In Tom Schulman’s perceptively droll screenplay, the psychological tables are, not surprisingly, turned, as balmy Bob proves the perfect panacea for the doctor’s distressed family life.
In this splendidly cast film, Murray and Dreyfuss play off each other to their maximum advantage: Murray does what he does best, to shine-on and ultimately destroy authority figures, while Dreyfuss‘ portrayal of the runty doctor is splendidly Napoleonic.
Although the farcical windup could benefit from a slight sedative, Frank Oz’s direction is ever sensitive to the ticks of each character while keeping the slapstick dosage to a wack, yet safe, level. — Duane Byrge, originally published on May 17, 1991.