A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this movie contains a mild amount of profanity, much of it delivered in scenes mocking Tourette's Syndrome. The profanity is silly, with insults like "testicle head" and "barf-breathed douche mouth" predominating; nonetheless, it may be too much for some kids and parents. The movie also makes light of serious mental health issues such as paranoia and agoraphobia and features a main character who's essentially a stalker, though this is presented humorously. Some cartoonish violence occurs near the end; for instance, one character hangs explosives on another and threatens to blow him up.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
Flush with the success of his new self-help book, psychologist Leo Marvin (Richard Dreyfuss) accepts a new patient referred by a colleague. Bob Wiley (Bill Murray) turns out to be deeply neurotic, and after just one session with Dr. Marvin forms such a strong attachment that he tracks the psychologist to his vacation spot and proceeds to complicate both Dr. Marvin's life and a prestigious TV interview. To make matters worse, everyone besides Dr. Marvin sees Bob as an endearing schlub, including Dr. Marvin's family.
Is it any good?
This movie is definitive proof of Bill Murray's loopy charm. With a different cast -- or a different slant -- this classic comedy about a kooky stalker and his hapless psychologist could have been a routine sitcom-style flick with a creepy edge. We've seen this type of high-concept setup before, with main characters who steadfastly refused to let go of the object of their affection, no matter how harshly they were shooed away. But Murray's such an affable, adorable actor that even predictable scenes have a sort of cockeyed charm.
With both Dreyfuss and Murray cast in roles that take advantage of their strong points (Dreyfuss as the straight-man-on-the-edge; Murray as an out-there eccentric), What About Bob? cashes in on their charm. The result is a goofy, good-hearted comedy that's gentle enough for kids yet witty enough for parents.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about mental health concepts. Bob is presented as "crazy" but not dangerous -- how might a real person with similar emotional problems act?
How does the film's portrayal of a stalker deviate from the real-life danger they pose? How could Dr. Marvin have dissuaded Bob from pursuing him without resorting to violence?
This lighthearted movie could be a good jumping-off point for parents wishing to show how actual mental-health difficulties differ from cinematic portrayals.
- In theaters: January 1, 1991
- On DVD or streaming: July 11, 2000
- Cast: Bill Murray, Julie Hagerty, Richard Dreyfuss
- Director: Frank Oz
- Studio: Buena Vista
- Genre: Comedy
- Topics: Misfits and Underdogs
- Run time: 99 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: language and comic violence
- Last updated: March 31, 2020
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