Patch Adams (1998)

Directed by Tom Shadyac
Written by Steve Oedekirk, based on the book Gesundheit: Good Health is a Laughing Matter by Hunter Doherty Adams & Maureen Mylander
Starring Robin Williams, Monica Potter, Daniel London, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Bob Gunton

My Advice: Wait and Rent It.

What could have been a really great statement about the need for connections between doctors and their patients is reduced to a vehicle for Williams' comedic wackyness.  It's still a good film, but not what it could have or should have been.

The story, a true one, is about Hunter "Patch" Adams, a suicidal man who suddenly finds his calling after dealing with two fellow patients (Michael Jeter and Harold Gould) at the sanitarium he has committed himself to.  He decides to become a doctor and heads to the Virginia Medical School, only to clash with the dean (Gunton) when he maintains that humor is the best medicine.

The movie works best when it's letting Williams be funny.  Whether he's entertaining sick children with medical props or making light of mortality with a terminal patient (Peter Coyote), the film is just damn funny.  However, the movie droops when it tries to handle the serious side of its matter.  The dramatic dialogue ranges from the uninspired (Potter's speech about caterpillars and butterflies) to the annoyingly preachy (most everything else).  Williams tries his best with the lines he's given, but they make up a sermon that we and every other character is simply bludgeoned with.  The exception is Philip Seymour Hoffman, who gives a great performance as Williams' prick of a roommate.  His speech about how pricks are superior when it all comes down to the wire shows that this actor can kick some ass. 

What it boils down to is that if you're looking for Robin Williams to do wild and crazy stuff, see this film.  If you're looking for a movie that successfully addresses the sorry state of patient/doctor relationships, go rent The Doctor with William Hurt from 1991.

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