Comedy / Drama
(US); 1998; Rated PG-13; 115 Minutes
Robin Williams: Patch Adams
Daniel London: Truman
Monica Ptter: Carin
Philip Seymour Hoffman: Mitch
Bob Gunton: Dean Walcott
Josef Sommer: Dr. Eaton
Produced by Allegra
Clegg, Alan B. Curtiss, Mike Farrel, Barry Kemp, Marvin
Minoff, Decorah Moos-Hankin, Charles Newirth, Steve Oedekerk,
Tom Shadyac and Marsha Garces Williams; Directed by Tom
Shadyak; Screenwritten by Steve Oedekerk
by DAVID KEYES
have a vision of a possible future for "Patch Adams." In
forty years, science and technology will enable other animal
species to speak human dialects, ranging from English to
French to German. Wild beasts that had once been studied
by biologists would become world leaders, political figures,
scholars, etc., because their gifts will bring them into
the spotlight. Gorillas could be on "Jeopardy"; pigs could
be prison guards; and numerous other animals, pleased with
their lives, could even develop a fetish for going to the
movies. I see that, every Saturday, a bunch of them would
get together to view a film. One weekend, they decide to
pick up a classic Robin Williams flick, and they come across
this. Halfway into it, after anticipation has built up,
something strange and unexpected happens. Cats cough up
hairballs. Elephants relieve themselves on the TV screen.
Hyenas stop laughing. Two monkeys look at one another, scratch
their heads, and proclaim, "They called us stupid?"
a moment about the observation you have just read. Ridiculous,
isn't it? Animals talking in real life? Maybe that's something
that happens in movies like "Babe: Pig In The City," but
not reality. Yet, there's an appropriately lifelike connection
between the observation and why it was used in this review:
"Patch Adams" is that silly, obnoxious, low-down dirty shame
of a movie that Robin Williams has been repeatedly starring
in for the past few years. The film is supposedly 'based
on a true story,' but I cannot recall anything like this
in any type of history. To buy into it is to believe the
first paragraph of this review. Both are impossible, fake
scenarios. Only one of them makes sense in the end.
movie plays like a touchy-feely-happy-saddy melodrama, in
which gags put on by the main stars are meant to put you
in a cheerful mood, and the situations involved within the
development of their dark lives are supposed to leave you
in tears. Very good melodrama doesn't try to exploit humor
every opportunity it has. Movies that are manipulative in
this sense can still retain some dignity as long as its
characters are convincing enough. A script has to accomplish
that. Heck, sometimes, humor is an appropriate space-filler.
But "Patch Adams" has too much annoying humor up its sleeve,
and an overwhelming amount of difficult tear-jerker situations
that cannot be believed. The movie is a bad mix of everything
it tries. People who know enough about movies to tell a
good one from a bad one know cheap shots and joyless plots
when they see them. Others who don't have the appropriate
exposure to movies cannot determine the source of impact
(does it come from the heart or does the script make us
think it does?). Thus, they simply give up and let themselves
be manipulated. Sometimes, they don't even know it.
that's not the absolute problem, really. It's not so bad
because it mix-matches comedy and drama in every way it
can think of. The real rotten thing is Robin Williams, whose
maniacal and half-baked performance as this 'over-happy'
medical student takes all the charm and appreciation we
should feel and condemns it on a level that cannot be tolerated.
The movie opened close to "Stepmom," another manipulatively
structured melodrama, only there, the film's characters
were not mental maniacs who turned the script into a loathsome
piece of garbage. The convincing performances in that movie
at least prompted us to fall for everything it manipulated
us into believing (sort of). "Patch Adams" does not have
the logic nor the right actor to accomplish something like
that. Williams' crazy character is like a mix of every other
wild-thing persona in his career, and so the portrait of
this 'true-life' character feels and acts more like it's
Williams' own life story. Here, he's the absent-minded professor
with a clown nose. The movie is "Flubber" with a medical
Adams is the name of Williams' character, a somewhat mentally
ill man who, at the beginning of the movie, checks himself
into a mental hospital after attempting suicide. While there,
he is exposed to a treatment that inspires him and gives
him the willpower to practice medicine, and soon, after
bonding with other patients in the mental ward, he enrolls
himself into a medical University. There, he has the notion
that the best way to heal patients is to emotionally bond
with them, although the text books play by the rules and
make it perfectly clear that a real good doctor does not
make any type of mental connection with their patients (of
course, that seems logical, if you think about it). He doesn't
care. Adams is that type of character where the insane factor
of his personality is his cheerful attitude and zest for
life--basically, the kind of obnoxious personality that
Robin Williams has attached on over half of his movie roles.
There is a subplot involving Patch and his roommate not
getting along very well (that situation deserves to be titled
"Saving Patch Adams"), but that is quickly thrown out the
window. The comedy routines make it perfectly clear that
nothing else should be the main focus of our attention.
They want us to laugh our heads off, basically. After time,
though, his gags and emotional grip to his patients get
distracting and unnecessarily overwrought, eventually concluding
with complete ineptness. In a notorious subplot in the film,
Adams treats a dying cancer patient played by Peter Coyote.
Not only do we see him perform all aspects of physical humor;
he also wears fake body parts.
Williams should know better. He won his Oscar for "Good
Will Hunting," and he roused his audiences in "What Dreams
May Come." Why would one want to go back to this lame-brained
material after it is the exact thing that almost ruined
his career in the first place? If he, like the audience
he reaches, thinks that this is a sentimental yet award-worthy
movie, I have no respect for his career decisions anymore.
for you people who enjoyed the movie; see if I care. I won't
mind that you have fallen under an obvious spell, just don't
try to get me to believe that this was actually a real story.
I'll believe it just as much as I'll believe that animals
will be able to talk like humans one day. At least with
that scenario, animals might have something amusing to say.
1999, David Keyes, Cinemaphile.org.
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if the above review contains any spelling or grammar mistakes.