Doc Hollywood

Reviewed By Chris Parry
Posted 03/04/04 12:29:33

"The epitome of 'nice'."
3 stars (Average)

There's something novel about a movie where, even though you know how the film is going to end when you buy a ticket, you just don't care. Doc Hollywood is a trip to small town America, where a young doctor on his way to the big smoke of Los Angeles gets waylaid with a broken automobile and soon finds that home is where the heartland is. where it ends up ins't important. On the contrary, how it gets there is what the ticket to this ride is all about.

Michael J. Fox is Dr Ben Stone, a young medico with seventy grand in student loans to pay off, a couple of years in the ER ward under his belt, and a penchant to go to LA where he'll suck fat out of rich old women for more money than he knows how to spend. So of course you just know he'll end up striking some sort of a problem along the way that will teach him lessons about how life is about more than money - yada yada yada. And he'll fall in love with a hot country girl (Julie Warner).

And there will be plenty of down-home country folks for him to encounter, a crotchety old grandfather type (Barnard Hughes) who seems totally mean but is, deep down, very nice. And of course they'll all learn something from each other and be better for the experience.


The deal here is the Doc crashes his wheels into the local judge's fence, who then sentences him to do community service for the local hospital while his car is being repaired. Hijinks ensue.

What makes Doc Hollywood not subject to the usual rules about cliche and formula is that it's just so durn nice. Unlike Northern Exposure's New York-bred doctor Joel Fleischman, Doc Hollywood only goes through a few moments of hair-pulling at his new home's quirkiness, and he never sits and scowls and yells sarcastic remarks at them. Doc Hollywood is just a good kid who is looking down the wrong path, and the longer that path twists through the small town of Grady, North Carolina (or Grady, Georgia - the film itself can't decide where its fictional town should be based), you begin to realise that he's never going anywhere.

I mean, besides, Julie Warner is hot. And the Doc now has the wishes of a pig to consider. And LA is full of vacuous types who have bizarre human decor in their waiting rooms. And... you get the idea, don't you?

Doc Hollywood was a reasonably big success at the box office, considering how little was spent to make it, and how tame and familiar the concept is. Credit must go to Michael J. Fox who, even though he'd been in TV-Land for most of his career, had clearly managed to learn how to perform a double-take to great effect, as well as too director Michael Caton-Jones, who directed this thing like a surgical procedure - no mistakes, plenty of able assistance, no risks, and no doubt that the patient will be in perfect health once the thing is over.

I'm a sarcastic bastard who laughs out loud at very little, but I laughed out loud a few times at this film, not because it's brilliant, but just because it's really very well done, despite the fact that it never stretches anyone involved.

When you see films like this show how easy it is to make a formulaic rom-com without offending an audience, it's always a nasty surprise to see what the Nancy Meyer's and Nora Ephron's of this world are churning out at the opposite end of the spectrum. Personally, I could watch five Doc Hollywood's for every one Something's Gotta Give, and I suspect I'm not alone.

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