What's Up, Doc? (1972) - Rotten Tomatoes

What's Up, Doc?1972

What's Up, Doc? (1972)



Critic Consensus: Barbra Streisand was never more likable than in this energetic, often hilarious screwball farce from director Peter Bogdanovich.

What's Up, Doc? Photos

Movie Info

With Howard Hawks's Bringing Up Baby (1938) as his blueprint, Peter Bogdanovich resurrected and payed homage to 1930s screwball comedy in What's Up, Doc? (1972). When wacky co-ed Judy Maxwell (Barbra Streisand, in the Katharine Hepburn part) spies nebbishy musicologist Howard Bannister (Ryan O'Neal in bespectacled Cary Grant mode) in a San Francisco hotel lobby, she decides that Howard and his precious igneous rocks are right up her alley. Too bad Howard already has a fiancée, the propriety-fixated Eunice (Madeline Kahn in her film debut). Using all her arcane knowledge from brief stays at numerous colleges, Judy tries to charm her way to a $20,000 grant for Howard, and Howard himself, at a banquet with grantor Frederick Larrabee (Austin Pendleton). Things get even more complicated the next day when Judy's underwear-filled overnight bag gets mixed up with Howard's rock bag, which gets mixed up with Mrs. Van Hoskins' bag of jewels, which gets mixed up with Mr. Smith's bag of top secret government papers. All sides converge at Larrabee's mod townhouse and the chase begins. Retaining Hawks' machine-gun pace (as well as the sly pop culture referentiality of Billy Wilder), Bogdanovich and writers Buck Henry, David Newman, and Robert Benton updated the opposites-attract screwball convention for contemporary times. O'Neal gently parodied not only Grant but also his own Love Story (1970) preppy, while Kahn represents stiff-wigged 1950s manners as opposed to Streisand's long-haired, pants-wearing free spirit. The happy ending, in which Cole Porter-belting youth wins out over old manners, found favor with audiences, as What's Up, Doc? became one of the most popular films of 1972, and the second hit in a row for Bogdanovich after 1971's The Last Picture Show.

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Barbra Streisand
as Judy Maxwell
Ryan O'Neal
as Howard Bannister
Madeline Kahn
as Eunice Burns
Kenneth Mars
as Hugh Simon
Austin Pendleton
as Frederick Larrabe
Mabel Albertson
as Mrs. Van Hoskins
Michael Murphy
as Mr. Smith
Liam Dunn
as Judge
Phil Roth
as Mr. Jones
John Hillerman
as Mr. Kaltenborn
George Morfogen
as Rudy, the Headwaiter
Randy Quaid
as Prof. Hosquith
M. Emmet Walsh
as Arresting Officer
Eleanor Zee
as Banquet Receptionist
Kevin O'Neal
as Delivery Boy
Paul Condylis
as Room-Service Waiter
Fred Scheiwiller
as Jewel Thieve
Carl Saxe
as Jewel Thieve
Jack Perkins
as Jewel Thieve
Gil Perkins
as Jones' Driver
Christa Lang
as Mrs. Hosquith
Stan Ross
as Musicologist
Peter Paul Eastman
as Musicologist
Eric Brotherson
as Larrabee's Butler
Elaine Partnow
as Party Guest
George R. Burrafato
as Eunice's Cabdriver
Jerry Summers
as Smith's Cabdriver
Morton C. Thompson
as Airport Cabdriver
John Allen Vick
as Airport Driver
Don Bexley
as Skycap
Leonard Lookabaugh
as Painter on Roof
Candace Brownell
as Ticket Seller
Sean Morgan
as Banquet Official
Patricia O'Neal
as Elderly Lady on Plane
Joseph Alfasa
as Waiter in Hall
Chuck Hollom
as Pizza Cook
Mark Thompson
as Airport Taxi Driver
Joe Alfasa
as Waiter in Hall
Philip Roth
as Mr. Jones
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News & Interviews for What's Up, Doc?

Critic Reviews for What's Up, Doc?

All Critics (42) | Top Critics (8)

In Bogdanovich's analytical twist on the genre, even joyous liberation leaves a huge mess.

May 26, 2020 | Full Review…

The film builds on itself, gaining speed as it careens out-of-control toward its conclusion. Only a director in complete control can fashion something so effortlessly chaotic.

October 2, 2018 | Rating: 3.5/4 | Full Review…

The result is a comedy made by a man who has seen a lot of movies, knows all the mechanics, and has absolutely no sense of humor.

February 10, 2014 | Full Review…

This picture is a total smash.

October 18, 2008 | Full Review…

A homage to Hollywood screwball comedy that by and large gets its pace and cartoon/slapstick timings right.

June 24, 2006 | Full Review…
Top Critic

The strength of a movie like this, of course, is that you don't have to believe too much for too long, because there's something else happening.

October 23, 2004 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for What's Up, Doc?

Remember that kind of stuffy professor who was easily flustered that Cary Grant played in Bringing Up Baby? Well that's sort of the tip of this comic fare-thee-well, an homage to screwball comedies, with Ryan O'Neal doing the present honors, and Babs Streisand in her most accessible role as the loopy broad (the Katherine Hepburn part) who has set her sights on said professor. Set the antics in San Francisco and let her rip. Why this film isn't remembered beside the likes of Blazing Saddles I'll never know, a forgotten gem of the 1970's. Madelyn Kahn plays the cougar.

Kevin M. Williams
Kevin M. Williams

Super Reviewer


It doesn't really matter that this amusing homage to the screwball comedies of the 1930s and 1940s has such a loony structure, since it is often hilarious and has a super charismatic Barbra Streisand embodying an irresistible combination of Carole Lombard and Bugs Bunny.

Carlos Magalhães
Carlos Magalhães

Super Reviewer


Four suitcases, one with jewels, one with secret documents, one with rocks, and one with clothes, cause goofy characters to scramble for possession. What's Up, Doc? is a fun light-hearted farce that succeeds because Barbara Streisand can be quite charming and Ryan O'Neal has a good, dry, stone-faced delivery. The final moment of the film -- "That's the stupidest thing I've ever heard" -- is hilarious only for those who know O'Neal's career. The film fails in other areas. Judy's motivations are mysterious; "You're cute" isn't enough justification for me. Likewise, all the other interesting parties flit and run around like idiots, but their motivations are never very clear. Overall, as farces go, this one isn't bad, but ultimately, What's Up, Doc? is easily dismissed.

Jim Hunter
Jim Hunter

Super Reviewer

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