Summer is the season to be outside soaking up the sun, but you can't be out all day. Your skin would be at risk and you'd get thirsty. Why not balance it out with funny summer flicks to accompany the mood of the season? Grab your swimsuit or trunks, lather on the sunscreen, and get ready - we're watching arguably classic summer comedies.
Something about setting comedies during sunny days, coastally or on the water, enhances the feel-good nature of a film viewing experience. Hell, the sun feels and looks pretty good. The sounds of waves crashing or rapids rushing is soothing. Diving into a body of water is a refreshing thrill. Plus, the feelings and activities that imply summer and some time off, even in adulthood, are a lost love.
A film's setting might not inherently increase the humor, but it adds a sense of escape. Families vacationing on beaches, lakes and venturing in the sea are breezy timeouts for viewers. Such warm escapes lay a great groundwork for funny stories with sweet meaning, upon which layers of mishaps and jokes can be laid.
Not all summer comedies are great comedy movies, but one can't deny the free and easy appeal of films set at beaches or on lakes during summer days. Now is an opportune time to splash into some of the greatest summer comedies. There are plenty more films beyond what's listed, but here are 13 generally fantastic, funny summer flicks.
The Great Outdoors
A charming and sometimes super funny comforting classic, The Great Outdoors is a delightful summer-soaked romp with superb performances from Dan Akroyd and the late John Candy. Breezy familiar elements are at play, as this is primarily a fun escape, though the John Hughes script has zing, fantastic characters, and the film as a whole is a slice of late 80's lakeside comedy heaven.
John Candy plays perhaps a more sincere version of the usual Candy lead role as Chet Ripley, a heart on his sleeve Chicago father who, above all else, wants his family happy. Romanticizing his honeymoon cabin getaway, he plans a Ripley family vacation in the woods of Wisconsin. The trip kicks off well until Chet's social-climbing, sleazy brother-in-law, Roman Craig (Akroyd) and his family show up to the cabin unannounced. Cue 80's family excursion gone haywire.
Candy exudes his one of a kind warmth as a loving and lovable family man, and sticks mostly to serious and genuine aside from a few silly scenes. Akroyd carries most of the zaniness in what I believe to be one of his funniest and most authentic outings.
Roman's a one-upper and a phony with an emotionally vacant wife and creepy twin daughters whom he's unable to relate to or really communicate with. Akroyd's arrogant yet insecure, slimy and goofy; cackling and sarcastic, a perfect wisecracking heartless fool. Throughout my Great Outdoors revisits I've found Roman to be a legendary film comedy jackass. A titan among the klutzy con artists and sociopathic brother in-laws across the cinematic comedy landscape. Akroyd's an integral part of the funny in many films, even those loaded with other comedic stars, but The Great Outdoors is an effort where his dickish shtick is so on the money and lovable he's as big as the film itself.
Candy supplies a little signature silly as well. Chet tees up a fireside bear story to creep out the wives and kids in a scene where Candy plays innocently theatrical fun dad to an affectionate degree. The 'ole 86er scene, where Chet takes on the challenge of eating an 86 ounce steak, is another Candy classic. A bit out on the lake in which Roman maniacally flies around a crowded lake in a speedboat, dragging Chet on water skis always makes me crack a smile.
The Great Outdoors is a pretty zany flick that crams in the slapstick mishaps and an occasional crude joke, but it's largely cute and innocent. An airy story of a father who loves his family and wants to give them a nice vacation, while additionally craving some validation as a good father. At least a bit of gratitude from his kid and preteen. Meanwhile, his all-for-the-image, disingenuous dick brother and his eerie daughters and selfish wife pop in to represent the less well-meaning, slimier side of fatherhood and family. The Great Outdoors is a formidably funny timeout above all else, but we can't ignore a sweet message brought to us by writer John Hughes and legendary performers like Candy and Akroyd.
A lot of films feature and are better for having John Candy, but not every one of those flicks breathes Candy's jolliness and innocent complexity throughout every moment. Summer Rental, a simple vacation gone awry vehicle executed to charming perfection by director Carl Reiner, is one of those experiences that's pure John Candy - good clean fun that doesn't merely bring laughs, but has a homey feel that calls for re-watching comfort.
Jack Chester's an exhausted air traffic controller in deep need of a vacation. After one too many mistakes at work, he's given the go-ahead to take time off. Jack rents a home down the shore for his family, which is a disaster from the jump.
From setting up in the wrong rental house, to a feud with a local snooty yacht captain, to living in a run-down rental that random beach goers start treating like a hangout spot, The Chester's beach vacation is one silly mess after another. Of course, the series of comical setbacks has a wholesome story of a family-man trying to bring his loved ones joy intertwined.
Summer Rental, being a wholesome flick that steers clear of crudeness and vulgarity, isn't anything outrageous, but it's a powerfully funny little film for a family-friendly 80's outing. A few memorably funny scenes standout, namely the scene in which strangers are partying in the Chester's rental, or the beach day bit when Jack (Candy) spills a cooler all over sunbathing beauties.
Sappiness is inevitable, and some of the heart does feel forced, (like when Jack enters a boat race with his son to take down an arch nemesis yacht captain they just met several days ago) but that's okay. This is a sun-soaked 80's trip to the shore featuring an utmost lovable John Candy.
Everything about Summer Rental is pleasant, from the mood to the gags. Reiner brings us a light film - timelessly sweet and forever relatable - and with Candy as the warm, inviting, fantastically talented face of it all, this rather tame vehicle has surprisingly hysterical bits you won't soon forget.
Funny Farm is a known but not aptly appreciated Chevy Chase vehicle, and that's possibly due to its lightness. The gags aren't dark like those in National Lampoon's Vacation, nor are they raunchy like most Chevy antics in efforts like Fletch and Caddyshack. With the exclusion of a little testicle eating, Funny Farm is for the most part family-friendly, coasting on a breezy story of a fish out of water couple and the funny mishaps along their move from NYC to rural upstate NY.
Chevy Chase plays Andy Farmer, a sportswriter who leaves his job to move with his wife Elzabeth (Madolyn Smith Obsorne) to a small farm property in upstate New York and focus on writing a novel. Andy's naïve and hopeful while Elizabeth hints from the beginning that this change may end disastrously.
Between movers arriving with all of the furniture a day late, and a dead guy being discovered in the garden, signs are saying the Farmer's relocation was a mistake.
Andy struggles accomplishing any of his novel - an inner fight piled onto the madness he's already developing as he pretends to love this new environment. Meanwhile, Elizabeth tends to the yard, sulks, and secretly pens a book of her own.
Upon finally finishing his book, Andy arranges a date night when he reveals his finished novel to Elizabeth. She voices honestly that the book stinks and makes little sense. Andy later discovers she penned a children's book, and even received a check from a publisher for it. Cue a thick layer of relationship trouble on top of a big move that clearly isn't working out.
As a viewer and a writer, I've tended to see Andy as a bit delusional and pitiful, but the writing troubles and jealousy towards Elizabeth come off as heart-crushing nonetheless. This isn't the hardest hitting drama, but when you're enveloped in the story you'll find yourself shaken and second-hand embarrassed by their ego-related difficulties. The relationship troubles are rooted in his insecurities, as he dances around acknowledging his mediocrity as a novelist, while Elizabeth displays a moderate affection for toying with those insecurities. Frankly, she finds a bit of enjoyment in making Andy feel bad. If you're someone who has spent years in a relationship trying to shape an adult-child, dreamer of a person into someone more reasonable, you can empathize with Elizabeth. If you're that adult-child dreamer, you might be hurt by what unfolds. I like that a rather light romp can prey on my insecurities, and make me feel something beyond warm escapes.
As for the warm escape, Funny Farm does provide it. Nothing is definitively "summer" about it besides feel, though. The Farmer's move, being short, hectic, and scenic, does have the feel of a messy summer vacation. Their being out of place in a tiny woodsy town by a lake seems June through September enough to qualify this as a Summer comedy. Don't make me defend this as a summer comedy or good movie any further.
Mark Harmon as gym teacher Freddy Shoop in Summer School is a beachy style icon and the pinnacle of slacker cool. Mr. Shoop's a character who's arguably bigger than the film itself, but the flick as a whole is a harmless, sweet summery gem from director Carl Reiner.
Underachieving high school gym teacher Freddy has plans to spend the summer in Hawaii. Vice Principal Gills (Robin Thomas) ruins that vacation when he asks Freddy to teach summer school English. It's either that or lose tenure.
Freddy's tasked with leading a crazy classroom of unmotivated students, putting more of a damper on his summer, but fellow faculty member and history teacher Ms. Bishop (Kirstie Alley) acts as a friend and helpful resource. With Ms. Bishop's help, and a growing love for his group of misunderstood remedial English students, Freddy finds a passion for teaching and soul-searches through the summer.
Say what you will about Kirstie Alley (you don't actually have to say anything about her) she had a captivating onscreen presence and excellent comedic delivery in the 80's and early 90's. Her and Harmon share a delightful dynamic in Summer School. You root for a romance - a testament to their chemistry - though Reiner focuses more attention on Freddy's relationship with his students than a romantic one with Ms. Bishop. There's joy to be found watching a hip teacher engage unmotivated students, particularly in an 80's comedy, and that endearing trope holding more weight than love, sex, or romance is sort of refreshing.
Also majorly in Summer School's favor is the cast of characters in Freddy's classroom, most notably young horror filmmakers Dave (Gary Riley) and Chainsaw (Dean Cameron). These knuckleheads might be mediocre students, but their ambition and knack for creating practical horror effects shows as they stage gruesome, gory gags to prank Freddy and their classmates. Wedging campy horror moments into a cheery seasonal comedy is a quirk 80's movie fans can love. The practical effects work Dave and Chainsaw put together is legitimately impressive, at that. Bits from these Tom Savini-fans don't push matters into horror-comedy territory, they're just off-center scenes for a unique touch. Summer School is surprisingly original. A romantic element seemingly goes nowhere in favor of more lighthearted story development. A teacher character proves to be cooler and more iconic than most any character. Two kids are serving up exploitation horror in a teen comedy. It isn't the funniest film on this list, but Summer School provides the escape of an offbeat summer in late 80's California.
Up The Creek
Like Animal House in the woods, and not far off in terms of overall comedic delight, Up The Creek is a bawdy college romp following a crew of screw-ups from the country's most academically shameful university as they're forced to compete in a collegiate whitewater rafting tournament in order to stay enrolled and graduate.
Lead Bob McGraw (Tim Matheson) is the Van Wilder-y campus cool guy, in his 12th year of college. Alongside glutton Gonzer (Stephen Furst) alcoholic dork Irwin (Sandy Helberg) and general cut-up Max (Dan Monahan) the crew of misfits head to the collegiate rafting tournament against their will, mostly ready to party.
Throughout their first night of drinking and mingling with teams from other colleges, the ragtag group make rivals with other university crews, like a group of military school maniacs and a prep school assemblage of blonde, country club tools. There's also a few saucy all-lady teams in the mix.
Race day itself brings much malarkey to enjoy, with surprisingly action-packed scenes, great scenic shots, and lots of dumb gags (like the military school guys pulling out heavy artillery, and Bob's strangely smart dog playing an integral part of the race strategy).
Up The Creek takes a standard slobs vs. snobs premise out into rushing white water, and though nothing about this is overly inspired, it follows the formula and delivers a super enjoyable escape. Tim Matheson as Bob works as a charismatic cool guy character of the Ferris Bueller variety. He slacks off, sling funny lines, and woos ladies as any cool fella in an 80's flick should. On top of that, he's an avid reader who frequently quotes classic literature in his flirtatious efforts, and that's a spark of originality at least. The role of Bob was originally supposed to go to Michael Keaton, who would have done a fantastic job and probably leveraged this film to a more notable cult status, but Matheson is fun and believable (but maybe not the comedic talent that could have made Bob a classic character).
Bob's crew members also have personality quirks that take them beyond generic stock fare. The dork, Irwin, is a severe alcoholic who carries around a briefcase full of cocktails, while slob Gonzer is a surprisingly intelligent, kind soul.
The preppy blondes are hilariously generic 80's villains, but if you're an 80's comedy fan you probably love that. Hell, you'll probably love everything about Up The Creek. Quips, nonsense, silly characters, wilderness, blondes, summer bods, and white-water rafting - a perfect summer getaway for us aging comedy heads. For unexplained reasons, maybe the lack of a huge star, Up The Creek is never ranked among great comedies, but it should be. The blueprint's laid nicely, it's 80's goodness. The jokes are frequent and much funnier than you'd expect them to be. Give this one a shot if you haven't seen it, but don't expect Oscar-worthy and preferably be drunk or high.
A Goldie and Kurt charmer by the sea that's as lovey-dovey and summer-y as can be, Overboard is quintessential to both a great summer comedies list and a romantic comedies one, and a particularly delightful re-watch for someone either reminiscing or just seeking an 80's love story.
Super rich snob Joanna Stayton (Goldie Hawn) leads a luxurious life with her husband Grant (Edward Herrmann). Dean Proffitt (Kurt Russell) a widowed carpenter with four children, is working on a closet for Joanna aboard their yacht and not being treated particularly well.
Joanna falls off the yacht and suffers amnesia, and Grant takes the opportunity to leave her and take his fortune. Dean, in the interest of revenge for how he was treated, visits Joanna in the hospital and convinces her she's his wife.
Though she's initially appalled by Dean's lifestyle, his residence, and the behavior of his four sons, the couple develop a chemistry that surprises them both.
You know what's coming with Overboard, but it's hard not to be charmed by this silly, sappy fantasy nonetheless. Kurt, Goldie, Roddy McDowall, and Edward Herrmann all put on swell performances. Kurt and Goldie are lovable together, and it would be disheartening if they weren't. The four boys playing the Profitt sons are great as well.
Beyond being cast to perfection, Overboard offers chuckle worthy screw-ups, standard 80's hi-jinks, and hilariously incompetent parenting from Kurt as Dean. The romance is as cheesy as can be, but viewers eat it up, and that's why Overboard will forever be cherished and its story line revisited. This is a romantic comedy running on fantasy; free of dark reality, even when the subject matter's real. That, folks, is the feeling that helps a comedy reach the 80's classic rankings.
A most genuine, simple summer camp story from a then up-and-coming director Ivan Reitman, with a young and super charismatic Bill Murray leading as snarky, smooth camp counselor Tripper: Meatballs has the cult classic comedy formula, and a sincere sweetness that more vulgar efforts it inspired don't have.
Tripper (Bill Murray) is the head counselor at a less-than-spectacular summer camp, Camp Northstar. He floats about, carefree, seeming disconnected from any sense of responsibility, until he befriends a shy, loner camper named Rudy (Chris Makepeace).
Tipper takes Rudy under his wing in the hope some of his sociable ways might rub off. In return, Rudy plays matchmaker for Tipper and counselor Roxanne (Kate Lynch). Meanwhile, campers prepare to take on rival Camp Mohawk in the annual Olympiad Competition.
Meatballs is pretty bare bones despite its title, but it's kept uncomplicated in a way that lends to authentic energy. No forced twists throw any wrenches in the mix. There's no convoluted plot to muddy the relationships or shadow the atmosphere at Camp Northstar. We have what feels like a scenic budget summer camp in the late 70s, inhabited by curious adolescent counselors (who look more mid-to-late 20's) and confused wily campers.
This would all be an underwhelming venture, coasting by just barely on charm, if it weren't for the fresh and cool Murray performance that makes Meatballs feel like a lost, treasured relic of comedic gold pulled from some producer's attic or a wealthy comedy aficionado's collection. While this is a known, respected film from an all-time great comedy director and one of the most legendary comedic actors to walk the planet, it presents like an obscure old cult hit only comedy nerds praise.
Bill Murray was at the height of SNL stardom, at a time when Saturday Night Live was new, revolutionary, and cool as can be. Meatballs was his first starring role in a feature film. Maybe it's his still youthful appearance or the appealingly aged graininess of late 70s cinema that radiates an un-mined gem aura. Perhaps it's just Murray's young and confident command, dictating the mood of his every interaction, letting sly remarks fly with a calm cockiness, and charming everybody in his vicinity. Either way, Meatballs is your stop for an early, spectacular Bill Murray showing, and a vintage summer camp escape with a cute story.
National Lampoon's Vacation
National Lampoon's Vacation doesn't offer lakes or beaches, but it's the original and quintessential family summer vacation gone awry film, for God's sake.
Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase) plans a trip to Wally World for good old fashioned family fun, but it's a dark comic nightmare the whole way. We all know the plot of National Lampoon's Vacation, right?
Chevy Chase is at his well-meaning, goofy best as Clark in the original vacation. He's dumb, caring, confused, and oddly endearing. He's a klutz with human urges who means well. Chevy's timing is impeccable throughout the ride from Chicago to Wally World. From the facial expressions, to his jumps from collected to outraged, to his delivery on fantastic, subtle lines - "Hey holmes," he's terrific as iconic movie dad Clark Griswold, no matter what you want to say about the actor personally.
The supporting cast in vacation is also perfect. Beverly D'Angelo as Ellen, the kind but completely fed-up wife, is a great dimwitted guy's smart, put together partner. Ellen is arguably Clark's sole supporter, and the only person who puts up with his antics. Frankly they make a sweet, real pair of parents (at least in context of being parents on a disastrous family road trip).
A younger than young Anthony Michael Hall assumes the role of Clark's preteen son Rusty, and to this day Hall is the most classic Rusty from the Vacation franchise. He's innocent but mischievous, sarcastic and clever, and the Hall/Chase scenes breathe genuineness.
Randy Quaid as Cousin Eddie - One of the outright funniest comedic acting displays in film, ever. We know poor Randy's a nut these days, but let's not deny he could play zany characters with depth. Quaid does all of Eddie's absurd lines justice. Bit parts from Eugene Levy and John Candy are an added delight.
Beyond spot-on casting, National Lampoon's Vacation tells a spectacularly funny story. A relatable framework is thrown to hell as darkly hysterical unfortunate events ensue, and characters spout hilarious dialogue in response to one mishap after another. The late great John Hughes penned a script that laid a blueprint, but few films that followed said blueprint are even in the ballpark of being this funny or unadulterated.
National Lampoon's Vacation remains one of the greatest comedies of all-time, and a textbook summer comedy classic.
Martin Short playing the straight man square to Kurt Russell's aging island stoner out on a crummy boat? A nutty good time.
Short's Martin Harvey, a shy Chicago man, husband, and father, who inherits a vintage yacht. He decides to take his family on a Caribbean vacation, but when they arrive on a small island to retrieve the boat they realize it's in terrible shape. They hire local islander and old sea captain slacker, Captain Ron (Russell) to sail with them to Miami.
Ron's rough around the edges, but a damn fine captain with a kind heart and free spirit. His insane boating, lack of self-awareness, and crude ways are a hoot. It's fun seeing Russell clown around in a goofier role, bronzed, decked out like a drunken islander, and rasping in stoner cadence. Ron has his heroic, leader characteristics, so this isn't an entirely crazy character for Kurt Russell, though it's way less serious than what you're used to seeing him do. He's no comic marvel, but Kurt is pretty classic as Captain Ron.
There's the old sappy story of a family coming together with the help of an oddball entering the mix, which is the framework on which this boozy summer romp is built, making for something simple, silly, highly charming, and sweet. Captain Ron's superbly funny during Kurt's hammier moments. Martin Short, though unusually understated, brings his impeccable delivery and funny presence in a rare straight man role. Mostly, Captain Ron is a bright and endearing Summer time-waster with quotes to hold onto.
Wet Hot American Summer
Following their breakout absurdist MTV sketch comedy hit The State, cast members Michael Ian Black, Michael Showalter, and David Wain formed the sketch comedy troupe Stella, and would later have a short-lived but fantastically funny Comedy Central series based on their characters. Not long before that gem, they joined some other former State crew members as well as a few big film stars within their circle for Wet Hot American Summer, a nutty, joke-packed comedy experience for fans of the lovably outrageous.
David Wain directs this strange ode to summer camp days, which he wrote with Showalter and Black (who both star in the film). Alongside them are Paul Rudd, Amy Poehler, Bradley Cooper, Elizabeth Banks, Molly Shannon, Ken Marino, Joe Lo Truglio, Jon Benjamin, and the list of talented actors with great comedic presences could continue.
Those aforementioned actors and others play the staff and counselors of a Jewish summer camp. Their campers are largely insignificant in the grand scheme, although the story does occasionally shift to a shy boy, Kevin, and his fight to fit in and find sparks with a crush. Wet Hot American Summer mostly follows the counselors and their hormones and absurdities. Rudd as Andy is a "plays by his own rules,' immature moron who treats everyone like dirt yet still finds his way into the sack with ladies. Marino is perceived to be a curly-headed Italian stallion, though he's secretly a virgin. Black is a closeted homosexual who at one point sneaks off to a shed for a round of steamy gay sex. Showalter's a horrendously awkward dork with a bowl-cut named Coop who's completely oblivious to the fact that camp hot girl INSERT NAME isn't interested in him. Garofolo's love with a failing professor (David Hyde Pierce) and their scenes together are a hoot.
Wet Hot American Summer is a "satirical," perhaps even just jokey throwback to a summer at camp in the 80's, but the sensibility level cranked up to absurd.
The entire film is a joke and highlight reel of funny bits, but my favorite scene to revisit is the whole camp talent show, specifically Michael Showalter's performance as the mucus-y and out-of-touch Vaudevillian host.
Few feature films in existence present what Wet Hot American Summer does, and that's a star-studded absurdist comedy vehicle that runs on a stock premise, but one where reality ceases to exist and every element of comedy is used to craft a gag. A smart silliness that true comedy lovers can revel in.
Weekend At Bernie's
As you've noticed there's a lot of 80's movies on the list. Filmmakers in the 80's, especially the latter part of the decade, knew how to make a summer comedy. The vibe was a party. Director Ted Kotcheff got that feeling oh so right with Weekend at Bernie's, a summer buddy comedy that flips a dark concept into good beachy fun.
Insurance salesmen Richard (Jonathan Silverman) and Larry (Andrew McCarthy) a pair of high-spirited young buddies, are invited by their boss Bernie (Terry Kiser) for a weekend at his beach house. The boys discover their company is at the center of a fraud scheme, not knowing Bernie's behind it and plotting on having them killed. After Bernie's plan backfires and he dies instead, Richard and Larry carry on their beach weekend pretending Bernie is alive and well.
An off-the-wall black comedy with a sun splashed feel, Weekend At Bernie is an outrageous minor classic with leads Jonathan Silverman and Andrew McCarthy playing a righteous pair of half-witted heroes. They're an appealing comedic pair, like a young Laurel & Hardy, caravanning about an island, propping up a dead guy, and living it up among aloof, egocentric island goers.
Weekend At Bernie's has a slew of kooky characters you'd expect from a goofy outing like this, in addition to the superb leads. Dialogue from writer Robert Klane is surprisingly great; there are loads of outrageous moments, gross out gags, and sharply crafted stupidity. An inane flick of the late 80's joyous variety.
Directed by a then young and inexperienced Harold Ramis, written by Ramis, Brian Doyle-Murray, and late-National Lampoon pioneer Doug Kenny, and starring an older comedy lover's dream team, this glorious mess of a movie from some all-time comedy greats in their early prime is still potentially the greatest sports comedy ever - and a favorite comedy for many.
Production on Caddyshack was said to be chaotic. Picture a ragtag crew of young and rising stars in 1980 - some of the hippest faces in entertainment - left to a golf course in Florida with little supervision from stuffy higher-ups. Drugs and porkin', partying and making a feature film for $4.8 million, under the coolest and most respected name in comedy that was National Lampoon. Being at that course alongside some of the funniest people on the planet and a huge film crew, putting together a goofy comedy had to have been a time. Understandably, all wasn't/weren't coherent in the filming and assembly of this flick.
The script, which focused mostly on the story of teen caddy Danny, is barely apparent in the final product. When you have a group of strong comedic personalities with unique sensibilities like Chevy Chase, Bill Murray, and Rodney Dangerfield, you just let them run wild and do their respective things. That's essentially what happens in what results to a series of sketches, loosely strung together by the story of summer at an uppity country club where a wealthy but uncouth and abrasive man (Dangerfield) is winning people over with crude ways, while caddy Danny tries winning a college scholarship through a caddy golf tournament. Danny also impregnates an Irish country club employee, who's also a teen, and then cheats on her, but this is all skimmed over in such a light way you hardly remember Danny as part of the film at all. The nonchalance with which these rather grave teen matters are approached is genuinely wild and fever-dreamy early 80's. Many people who have seen the film probably couldn't even recount those plot details. Caddyshack's memorability is all in the characters and jokes.
The Baby Ruth in the pool bit. Chase and Murray's completely improvised conversation down in Carl's cave-home. All of Dangerfield's antics and one-liners. The makings of a timeless classic. Caddyshack is as ingeniously dumb and loveable as it ever was.
To further review a comedy so rightfully revered is pointless, but it's always worth noting how much the comedy world misses Caddyshack co-writer and National Lampoon pioneer Doug Kenney, who tragically passed before this would be considered a piece of sports comedy greatness.
What About Bob?
Bill Murray has a hell of a resume and numerous iconic roles, but Bob in What About Bob is one of his truest to form, liveliest performances.
Murray's Bob Wiley, an obsessive compulsive neurotic who believes himself to be hopeless without the help of his new psychotherapist Dr. Leo Marvin (Richard Dreyfuss). Dr. Marvin, already exhausted by Bob's neediness, tells Bob he and his family are going on a vacation to their country house. Not long after Dr. Marvin and his family arrive at their lakeside cottage, Bob tracks them down, introduces himself to the family, and makes himself at home. Despite what anybody wanted, it's now a summer vacation with the uninvited and insane yet strangely charismatic Bob.
What About Bob is an agreeable Frank Oz film with soul and great performances from the likes of Richard Dreyfuss, Julie Hagerty, and Tom Aldredge, but it's the particularly energized Bill Murray showing that sets the sporadic tone and shapes this into a quirky and fun-loving 90's comedy classic.
The childlike tendencies and unstable behaviors of Bob are clearly a joy for Murray to portray, as Bob comes off so lovably innocent despite being annoying and rudely invasive. Bob's dynamic with the Oz family, led by a prickish, self-involved head of the home, is like watching a bad kid act out for laughs in a classroom run by an uptight teacher. It's good, pretty innocent fun. Oddly innocent considering the film centers around a mentally unwell character, but Bob's demons are dug into shallowly with playful intent. If that character of Bob were looked at any more seriously, this would not be the laugh-packed pleasant film it is. Still, director Frank Oz keeps a human pulse beating throughout What About Bob, even when matters come down to Bob just being a nut-job.
Bob's obnoxiousness can be annoying, even for the viewer, but Dreyfuss levels it out in dry fashion as Dr. Marvin. Due to Murray's especially heightened eccentricity, What About Bob is most aptly appreciated when you're not too invested. Slump into "watching an early 90's comedy" mode, take in the yuks, and enjoy implausibility.