Patch Adams

“Patch Adams” took a lot of potshots from the critics last Christmas when it was released. Some called it manipulative. Others called it trite, syrupy and silly.


Still, “Patch Adams” went on to make a bundle of money at the box office (something like $140 million when the final count was done). patchadams
That is because movies like “Patch Adams” are critic proof. The real critics in this case are the people who plunked down their $7.50 at the box office, making “Patch Adams” another runaway success for star Robin Williams and director Tom Shadyac. The truth is, “Patch Adams” is manipulative. The screenplay by Steve Oedekirk is very simplistic, yet the terrific performances and engaging premise more than compensate for the film’s shortcomings.

For instance, Robin Williams is way too old to be playing the title character, but that doesn’t stop him from delivering yet another passionate and winning performance. Williams plays the title character, who at the beginning of the film (set in the early 1960’s) has checked himself into a mental institution after a failed suicide attempt. Like Murphy in “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” Patch quickly learns that not all of the patients are crazy, and hardly any of the staff are sane. Patch befriends several patients (including Michael Jeter, whom Williams shared screen time with in “The Fisher King“), and decides to check himself out of the institution so he can study medicine and help others.

So it is back to school for Patch, who soon masters the fine art of the text but desires to learn more about the patient. To that end, finds himself entertaining terminally ill children and others, much to the chagrin of his superior, Dr. Walcott (Bob Gunton, very strict). Patch believes that laughter is the best medicine, and goes to extremes to prove his case. His antics upset his study group partners, who resent the fact that he is at the top of his class even though he seldom studies.

Despite his workload and extracurricular activities, Patch still has time to woo and court medical student Carin (Monica Potter, very luminous). Carin is at first taken aback my Patch’s affections, but eventually warms up to him. With the assistance of his friends and colleagues, Patch decides to create a hospital for people who cannot afford to be treated, and a place where laughter is indeed the best medicine. His dream, called the Gesundheit Institute, is almost stopped dead in its tracks when Patch is brought up on charges by his superior, forcing Patch to defend himself against the medical board.

Even though certain moments in the film like the courtroom trial have been designed to elicit basic emotions, I still found that they worked within the context of the film. Sure it may seem absurd that Patch is allowed to turn the hearing into a personal plea for compassion, but Williams is so passionate and convincing that you forgive the sentimental swipes director Shadyac takes. Forget the obvious and enjoy the experience. The filmmaker’s aren’t creating a piece of history, and they know it. Their bottom line is to entertain, and they accomplish that goal hands down. Williams has become such a great actor that he easily balances the mayhem and the melodrama.

He’ll have you in stitches one moment, and then in tears the next. The supporting cast is smashing, especially Potter, while the technical credits are superior on every front. “Patch Adams” may not be a great movie (I have several friends who would argue that point), but it sure gets the job done when it comes to entertaining on all possible levels.

COMPLETE CHECK-UP

VISION: [ X ] 20/20 [ ] Good [ ] Cataracts [ ] Blind

Outstanding anamorphic widescreen (2.35:1) transfer, with pure colors and powerful blacks. The images are absolutely vivid on this disc, including strong depth of field and attention to detail. Interior scenes have a nice, warm glow, while the exteriors are bright and sunny. Color saturation is very accurate, and the flesh tones are extremely realistic. Not an ounce of compression artifacts. The overall print is very clean, thanks to a pristine negative, while the whites and shadows never waver. Powerful presentation. Be warned, there is also a full-frame, no-frills edition of “Patch Adams” available. If you want a widescreen image, you’ll have to spring for the Collector’s Edition.

HEARING: [ X ] Excellent [ ] Minor Hearing Loss [ ] Needs Hearing Aid [ ] Deaf

Extremely buoyant 5.0 Dolby Digital Surround soundtrack (available in both English and French) more than gets the job done. Distortion free high and low ends pour through the speakers with assurance, while the stereo effects are outstanding. Front speaker left to right split is awesome, while the front to rear spatial separation is well timed. Nice surround effects and ambient noise, plus an impressive dialogue mix that keeps everything above water.

ORAL: [ ] Excellent [ X ] Good [ ] Poor

Closed captions in English for the hard of hearing.

COORDINATION: [ X ] Excellent [ ] Good [ ] Clumsy [ ] Weak

check.gif (406 bytes) Doctor! Doctor! It hurts when I laugh! Then don’t laugh….Yeah, right. Try watching the outtakes on this Collector’s Edition DVD and not laugh. Even though they only run a scant five minutes, the outtakes reel shows how much fun it must be on a Robin Williams film shoot. I could watch a whole DVD of this stuff, but unless someone at the studios gets wise (hey folks, my idea, but how about implementing it?), we’ll have to settle for these little tidbits.

check.gif (406 bytes) Check into “The Medicinal Value of Laughter,” an original 30-minute documentary that goes behind the scenes of the film with the talent and crew, plus insight from the man himself, Patch Adams. There are more outtakes here (mostly fun on the set), plus behind-the-scenes info that can only be found on DVDs.

check.gif (406 bytes) Director Tom Shadyac delivers an impressive, animated and informative full-length feature commentary, and even though Shadyac needs no help in expressing his ideas and thoughts, I wish Robin Williams were handy to lend his distinct talents to the proceedings.

check.gif (406 bytes) You also get the original theatrical trailer, plus when you access director Tom Shadyac’s filmography, you’ll find trailers for “The Nutty Professor” and “Liar, Liar.”

check.gif (406 bytes) A heathy dose of production notes and cast & filmmaker’s bios.

check.gif (406 bytes) Handsome main and scene access menus that use animation and clips from the film.

check.gif (406 bytes) Web links to Universal Studio’s Home Video “Patch Adams” site.

PROGNOSIS: [ X ] Excellent [ ] Fit [ ] Will Live [ ] Resuscitate [ ] Terminal

Laughter is the best medicine, as this DVD so aptly proves. Vitals are extraordinarily strong.

VITALS: $34.98/Rated PG-13/116 Minutes/Color/18 Chapter Stops/Keepcase/#20546

ATTENDING RESIDENT: John Larsen

PATIENT: PATCH ADAMS-COLLECTOR’S EDITION

BIRTH DATE: 1998

HMO: Universal Studios Home Video



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