Thursday 20 March 2008

What About Bob? (1991)

Bill Murray trying to convince himself that he's good, he's great, he's wonderful is precisely how every comedy should start and it sets the pace for What About Bob? Needless to say Murray is the Bob Wiley of the title and to say that he's a man with issues is about as massive an understatement as you could ever get. Luckily he's about to get help from a new psychiatrist, Dr Leo Marvin. Of course he's handed over to Dr Marvin by his own psychiatrist because he's driving him completely hatstand, so it's hardly a professional gift. Dr Marvin is a little on the egotistical side so can't resist the flattery but after a single introductory meeting he finds that he just can't get rid of Bob, even when he goes on a month long holiday to New Hampshire.

I took a while to take a shine to Bill Murray. I always enjoyed his work, back during the many comedies of the 80s I worked through as a kid, but somehow he was never my favourite. I don't know who my favourite was, but maybe it was Tom Hanks or John Belushi or Dan Aykroyd. It wasn't Bill Murray then, but as time went by I think it became Bill Murray later and this may just be the funniest thing I've ever seen him do. I've seen What About Bob? quite a few times and it gets funnier every single time I see it. Comedies that make me laugh out loud are rare and ones that have me laughing out loud throughout can be counted on my fingers.

It isn't just Bill Murray either. Richard Dreyfuss is awesome as Leo Marvin, though the part was originally slated for Woody Allen. The pair of them bounce off each other so well that they should have been a double act. I may be wrong but I'd bet they had each other and the rest of the cast in stitches throughout. I wonder how many takes every shot took. Amazingly, Dreyfuss has more opportunity to actually act here, as his character goes through seemingly no end of emotions.

His family are all fine too but they have to take a back seat: wife Julie Hagerty, probably still best known for the Airplane films; daughter Kathryn Erbe, now a regular on Law & Order: Criminal Intent and son Charlie Korsmo who may be the only person who ever chose to retire at 13 after a successful acting career to avoid the whole celebrity culture, even though he was being offered a million bucks a part. In fact they take a back seat to the story, the dialogue and the two leads and they're still all great. That's how good this film is.

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