May 23, 2014

Review: Patch Adams (1998)

Here we go, Patch Adams. So Patch is apparently a real guy and this is "based" off of his life. I haven't read the book this script is based on and I don't know Patch Adams personally but he seems to have some decent enough ideas in his head about medicine in general. The Gesundheit Institute honestly sounds like a good idea at first glance and a worthwhile cause. It's not everyone who'd be willing to put themselves out there to create a place where medical care can be received for free so the real Patch Adams deserves some respect for that.

Now the Patch Adams in the movie Patch Adams is not someone I'd personally want to be cared by and that's for sure. I've liked Robin Williams before but his version of Patch just seems like a collection of non-stop Williams comedy that gets really annoying. The reason why he never is serious is because as everyone knows, laughter is the best medicine so he's got to get those sick patients laughing their boots off. Personally, I'd respectfully ask for another doctor if I were saddled with the movie version of Patch Adams.


Genre: biography, comedy, drama
Directed by: Tom Shadyac
Produced by: Mike Farrell, Barry Kemp, Marvin Minoff, etc.
Written by: Steve Oedekerk
Music by: Marc Shaiman
Running time: 115 minutes
Production company: Blue Wolf, Bungalow 78 Productions, Farrell/Minoff
Distributed by: Universal Pictures, United International Pictures, American Broadcasting Company, etc.
Country: United States
Language: English
Budget: $90,000,000
Box office: $202,292,902 (Worldwide)

IMDb entry
Rotten Tomatoes entry

Starring: Robin Williams, Daniel London, Monica Potter, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Bob Gunton, Josef Sommer, Irma P. Hall, Frances Lee McCain, Harve Presnell, Daniella Kuhn, Peter Coyote, James Greene, Michael Jeter, Harold Gould, Bruce Bohne, Harry Groener, Barry Shabaka Henley  



The story begins with Patch checking into a mental hospital. He attempted suicide and he needs help. He gets none from the doctor there who is impersonal and doesn't listen to him so where does he get help from? The patients who open his eyes and make him want to help people. He enrolls at the Medical College of Virginia to pursue his dream of helping people with a smile.


To put things bluntly, Patch Adams is a blatant tearjerker. It has more than one crisis that gets in the way of Patch trying to achieve what he wants to do that are all solved with mountains of cheese. (Spoiler) The worst of this is Carin, a love interest that gets murdered in a way that will just leave you more puzzled than actually sad because of how the scene where this happens is cut. This isn't an R movie or anything but you'd swear that some granny made the cut herself so her grand kids wouldn't get scared. Patch is distraught and is ready to throw everything away until a butterfly which is supposed to represent Carin makes an appearance and makes everything OK. So emotional! (End Spoiler).

The mid to late 90's were really Robin Williams' time with Mrs. Doubtfire and Good Will Hunting making him a box office machine. Aladdin can probably be added to this list for how it influenced the voice acting casting decisions of the industry and of course the money it made. He's definitely a funny man but his humour here just seems too in-your-face and misplaced. So much so that I can totally understand a character like Mitch, a fellow classmate who probably just wants to punch Patch in the face.

Mitch is played by Philip Seymour Hoffman and he gives a reliable performance as he always does. He's the standout in the acting department and makes what's supposed to be an unlikeable character likeable. He has very limited screen time but he delivers the goods when he's called upon.

The big idea that Patch has is the creation of a clinic offering free care to anyone. While it's a nice idea, the first thing that comes to my mind are lawsuits. Not that I support that but let's be real. They have no money to get equipment or supplies and the doctors are all still students. Sounds like an awful idea to me. (Spoilers) We're supposed to feel bad that Patch gets expelled as a result of practicing medicine without a license but he deserves it. He's giving a bad name to his college and it's dangerous what he's trying to do. He then gets to represent himself before the state medical board in what culminates in another huge cheese-fest where he addresses the crowd in an emotionally-charged spiel about what medicine should really be about. Oh wait, here come all the sick kids he treated with his brand of medicine who support him with some rousing music. I wonder what the board will decide? (End spoilers)

There are some good intentions in Patch Adams and I support parts of it. For example, there's a ridiculous scene where four people in a row share their misfortunes regarding health insurance which I think is correct in its thinking. Healthcare should be free which is why I love living in Canada but the way it's argued doesn't have to be so lazy and hamfisted. I also think that there can be some improvements in how doctors approach their patients but I do not agree with doctors being your friend. That doesn't mean that they're some kind of untouchable human above us all. They're there to figure out what's wrong with you, treat you and move on to help someone else. Not every case can be a personal case because that's too much to ask. The doctor that doesn't help Patch when he's in the mental hospital I'm sure represents some small minority of doctors but it's crazy to think that all of them are like that.

Patch Adams is its own cheese factory serving up false tears and false emotional cheer. Yes Robin Williams is funny as Patch Adams but I would probably hate this man if I ever ran into him in real life. There's a time to be funny and it isn't all of the time. It's a real shame that despite the box office success this movie has had, it hasn't had much of an effect on the real life plans of the real Patch Adams in what he's been trying to accomplish. Patch Adams is a movie to forget and move on.



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