Patch Adams

Reviewed By Chris Parry
Posted 02/20/99 14:00:59

"Can you say 'tame'?"
3 stars (Average)

When Robin Williams did Good Will Hunting, lots of folks cried "seen it all before". I disagreed. With What Dreams May Come they were at it again. Again, I disagreed. Now, with Patch Adams, everyone suddenly seems to be saying "fantastic!" - but I must once more disagree. This role, out of all others that he's done, is more generically Robin Williams than any he has ever attempted.

Williams plays Hunter "Patch" Adams, a man who has an epiphany as he recuperates in an asylum. He wants to help people, so he goes to medical school. Unfortunately, in medical school he's surrounded by folks who treat people as products and projects, not people. Patch, through humor, decides to give people some TLC and finds himself pilloried for it by the establishment, but adored by the patients.

Williams, and you must focus on Williams because he's never off screen for more than three seconds, is decent. The thing is, he's playing himself and more openly so than he ever has before. The focus of the entire film is on him and his 'zany' antics, but that's acceptable I guess, because it's not really hidden. I mean, who's going to see a poster with Robin Williams wearing a clown's nose and not expect 'zany' antics?

The thing you notice most about the Patch Adams experience is that you're smiling through-out, but not smiling because it's making you laugh, but because it's "nice" and "sweet". Behind the sugary coating there's not a lot going on. Characters are given precious little development throughout. Even Williams, who is on screen for the entire movie, is rarely opened up for inspection past his wacky antics and hyperactivity. Earlier bouts of insanity are brushed over like they're not important to who he is.

This is a feel-good movie in the Hanks/Ryan mode. Lots of harmless one-liners, lots of piano-driven background score (the damn piano never quits for a second), conflict, resolution, no swearing, no question it's all going to end well, and any nastiness happens off-screen. Grandmother-fodder. If you think Patch Adams is the cure for your depression, guess again. While it's pleasant enough, this is strictly placebo.

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