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Overall Rating

Awesome: 12.5%
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1 review, 2 user ratings

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Bad Medicine
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by Jack Sommersby

"A Decent Dose of the Funnies"
3 stars

In this unfortunate day and age of so many pathetic comedies, here's a rather-unheralded one that'll supply some smiles.

I assure you that the south-of-the-border comedy Bad Medicine is in no way shape or form a bona-fide classic that will improve your life in any way, but it does manage to elicit more than its fair share of chuckles and gives us an array of (mostly) appealing, colorful characters we don't mind spending time with. The always-welcome Steve Guttenberg stars as Jeff Marx, the noncommittal, unfocused son from a family of respected doctors who doesn't really want to travel in their footsteps; from day one he's been groomed to be a doctor without any other vocational alternative encouraged -- even as a kid when he wanted a toy fire engine he got a toy ambulance instead. And due to his having attained only a mid-B-average in college, no medical school in the States will take him, much to the chagrin of daddy who can flawlessly operate on a human being but (quite amusingly) can't even properly carve a turkey at the dinner table. After the family pulls some strings, however, Jeff is admitted to a low-echelon school in Central America which the local dictator, Dr. Ramon Madera (Alan Arkin), is the head of. And for the outrageous out-of-country tuition, the place is the ultimate dive: every rodent known to mankind inhabits the seedy dorms; the water is rusty and the color of oolong tea; the classrooms are so over-packed it's two to a desk, and the school's been using the same smelly study cadaver since it opened -- and to top things off, the instructors speak only in Spanish. And Jeff isn't the only American student. There's the sweet but spacey Liz (Julie Hagerty of Airplane!), illegal-pharmacopoeia Dennis (Curtis Armstrong of Revenge of the Nerds), slick and sly Carlos (Robert Romanus of Fast Times at Ridgemont High), and level-headed Cookie (Julie Kavner of The Simpsons). There's also Madera's knockout of a libidinous secretary Candi (the luminous Maria Morales) who has the unbridled hots for Jeff and whose limited English has been derived from reading trashy American novels like Valley of the Dolls. Pretty soon Madera is using his stature to try to romantically ingratiate himself with Liz, and, for political sake with the media, dispatching the still-green students to a small local village to tend to the impoverished, ultra-unhealthy citizens without the necessary medicine to actually do some good (Band-Aids to cure gangrene and the like). The second half deals with Jeff and his lot developing a newfound determination to become good doctors along with partaking in a risky plan of stealing medicine from the school and administering it to the needy villagers. (In other words, it's the direct opposite of a Republican's wet dream.)

In making his directorial debut, Harvey Miller, who wrote the fine Goldie Hawn star vehicle Private Benjamin and co-wrote the abominable Burt Reynolds sequel Cannonball Run II, has concocted a serviceable screenplay that's obvious in places but reasonably deft on a cinematic plane slightly above an undemanding level. Perhaps the students sacrificing their medical futures for the poor isn't the most original thing to come around the bend, but Miller manages to keep it from being didactic -- right when it starts permeating preachiness, Miller picks the up the pace and moves right along. And most of the jokes fall right into proper place. In that impoverished village, all of the males have the same pain in their groins from the clap from the area's lone prostitute. The American students start making headway in their education by watching old reruns of Marcus Welby, M.D. episodes on TV. The attempt to get a fresher cadaver from the local morgue climaxes with a neatly-staged car chase (as the taxi driver, the excellent comedian Taylor Negron is absolute aces). When the secretary needs to be distracted so the key to the medicine cabinet can be stolen, she has no qualms being seduced by Jeff into some rather unusual lovemaking locales with her literary-smut-inspired dialogue loudly detailing their every sexual stroke. When Jeff downs some Dennis-supplied uppers for an all-night study session, he frenetically cleans to the tee his messy room but fragmentally forgets to actually study. The timing is almost always dead-on, and Miller gets through the scenes adroitly enough without overstaying their welcome -- thus the actors aren't left with egg on their faces due to a director's lapsed sense of when to instinctively cut. As usual, Guttenberg makes for quite the affable lead who can effortlessly command attention minus any semblances of movie-star smugness. Arkin, one of the cinema's all-time great character actors, is a wonderfully funny antagonist -- he makes Madera's super-solipsistic self-righteousness so goofy it's oddly winning. As the love interest, though, Haggerty is a liability. With her grating high voice and monotonous delivery, she's as mannered and studied as the aforementioned actors are not. And, quite simply, she's just not attractive and sensual enough -- you feel she's been cast simply because no other actress wanted the role. Her Liz should be Jeff's equal and a worthy center of attention for Maldera who yearns for her, and she isn't. Unlike the rest of Bad Medicine, she's an ailment that just can't be cured.

Deserved to have made a better box-office haul than it did.

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originally posted: 11/06/10 08:51:19
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User Comments

1/22/12 stephen B absolutely hilarious. saw it many years ago, and never forgot it. Currently trying to get 5 stars
11/08/10 Dorothy Rozdilsky loved it 4 stars
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  22-Nov-1985 (PG-13)



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