What About Bob? was my attempt to adapt Alan Moore’s “The Killing Joke” to the big screen without the benefit of licensed DC Comics characters. Stupid idea? Maybe. But acts which require bravery, honor, and stunning good looks seldom call for brain power. Without Batman, Joker, and the Gordons, my adaptation could only be thematic, but I think I did a good job of hurdling that hurdle.
So there’s this psychotic asshole who bugs a regular asshole so much that the regular asshole becomes a psychotic asshole. The psychotic asshole (Bob) is played by Bill Murray, who’s awesomeness trajectory is a little more roller coaster-shaped than some–Fox Mulder, for instance–want to believe. The regular asshole (What About) is played by Richard Dreyfuss, who’s awesomeness graph was really depressing until it was turned into an “assholeness graph.” After which, it shot through the roof and has been rising ever since (peaking when he punched CHUD.COM’s Devin Faraci in the face after Faraci called him a ‘nerd’ on the previously mentioned site’s message boards).
You can always tell how much of an asshole Dreyfuss is going to be in a movie by his facial hair. None = nice, even a little innocent. Stash = less nice, but with a lesson to learn. Beard = Hey, that rich asshole just stole my wallet! If you think his recent turn in Oliver Stone’s W. proves me wrong, than you just don’t like Dick Cheney and that’s YOUR problem. I think Cheney’s a national treasure. Like Randy Newman. And Garry Larson. Anyway, Dreyfuss brought his beard with him on set, and it made him such an asshole that I couldn’t’ talk him into cutting it for the role. Not even with two truckloads of pot and a private performance by Paul Simon.
Bob is full of emotional brain sickness. As far as psychotic assholes go, I’d say he’s a healthy mixture of Woody Allen, Pee-Wee Herman, and Hannibal Lector. He had to be the most annoying character ever put on film because, otherwise, I’d have a comedy on my hands and not the tragedy I was shooting for.
The irony is that What About is Bob’s shrink, which means it’s his job to make Bob less crazy. He’s not very good at it though, because he has a beard and is more concerned with using Bob for his new book than actually helping the guy. (Isn’t fixing patients a conflict of interest for ALL doctors?) Bob is not only too stupid to realize this, but he also thinks he and What About are best friends. When What About goes on vacation with his family, Bob overcomes his emotional brain sickness to stalk him across the country. Way to go Bob!
What About may be an asshole, but he’s no idiot. When Bob shows up at his mansion by the lake house, What About gets pretty pissed. Immediately he tries to get rid of Bob, but his plan hits a snag when What About’s family meets Bob and basically do a “patriarch-swap”. Now What About has lost both his vacation and his family.
Let me back up a bit to talk about What About’s family. He has a wife named What About-ette and a boy named Ziggy (named after the ace Harlem Globetrotter, Zigmund Freud). Neither of them like What About much because he’s an asshole who constantly puts his career before their bedroom and baseball needs, respectively. What About-ette is played by the skeleton from Airplane I! and II! And Ziggy is played by…I forget the little shit’s name, but he was in every movie ever for about five minutes. We only had three or four good child actors in the mid-nineties, and he was one of the ones who got all the parts they passed on.
So as What About loses more and more of his shit, he loses more and more of his mind, until he finds himself with the same emotional brain sickness Bob used to have. The difference between them though, is that Bob is generally nice, while What About is generally assholio. This does not bode well for Bob.
What About shoots Bob in the head with a rifle. Then, just to make sure, he blows him up with twenty pounds of gun powder. Before Bob dies, he whispers to What About, “See? We’re all just one bad day away from insanity…” What About doesn’t allow the profound notion to register–he’s too amazed that lips blown twenty yards from the face can still speak at all. In the end, What About gets carted away to jail, and his family misses his trial to go to Bob’s funeral.
We totally got snubbed at the Oscars that year.