Patch Adams (1998) / Comedy-Drama
Rated: PG-13 for some strong language and crude humor
Running time: 115 min.
Cast: Robin Williams, Monica Potter, Daniel London, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Irma P. Hall, Peter Coyote, Harold Gould
Patch Adams is based on a true story about a formerly institutionalized man (Robin Williams, What Dreams May Come) who discovers that laughter is the best medicine, trying to become an MD to try to help people with his special blend of comic therapy. Alas, his colleagues don't view his techniques in the same light, so he goes off to make his own clinic where he can treat people in a manner that makes them feel good, physically and spiritually.
This is an ill-advised comedy-drama that probably could have worked if Shadyac didn't try so hard to mold this farce into a manipulative tear-jerker. To make the film work, he would have had to try a more realistic portrayal of Patch Adams' life, but instead, he delivers mostly contrived, far-fetched scenes solely meant to tug at our heartstrings, alternately making us laugh or cry, rather than try to pay any homage to Patch and his cause.
Robin Williams does a competent job, essentially playing himself, but screenwriter Steve Oedekirk and director Tom Shadyac (the duo that also wrote and directed the manic comedies Ace Ventura and The Nutty Professor) play the comedy as shtick and the drama as schmaltz. For all of the talent on board, it isn't unwatchable, but at the very least, it should have been better than mediocre. If laughter is the best medicine, the prescription runs out early in this misfire.
©1999 Vince Leo