Anthony's Film Review
Patch Adams (1998)
While the underlying message is notable, the story feels weird as it is told...
Patch Adams is the true story of Hunter Adams, a medical student who spreads his message of humor and compassion for patients in rather extreme ways. Robin Williams is not a bad choice for the title role, given his ability to be both funny and dramatic. I can't really think of anyone else to fill the shoes. In fact, I remember the director once saying that Robin Williams is Patch Adams. Again, I agree with that. Otherwise, the rest of the cast is OK, including Philip Seymour Hoffman as a studious classmate and Monica Potter as a romantic interest.
Overall, I felt somewhat uneasy throughout the film. The story is intended to question the conservative ivory-tower perspective of medicine that seems to forget that patients are real people. That's fine with me. But what struck me about the movie was how it presented imbalance in the other direction. My definition of a good medical doctor is one who has both clinical skills and people skills. I was hoping the story would at least try to reconcile the two.
Instead, we get Patch Adams doing some strange things. When a group of gynecologists comes onto the medical school campus, the practical joke that Patch plays on them is rather crude. Other people in the theater audience laughed while I was wondering if this was supposed to be an inspirational movie. Later, he acts like a clown in a pediatric ward using bedpans for shoes. I had little medical knowledge at the time of the film's release, but even I knew that humor could bring a smile but not address the underlying disease.
There is a later scene where he stops his antics and pleas for compassionate patient care. I was interested in that more than the earlier scenes. At the same time, the end result was not a dramatic change. It would be nice if the medical faculty accepted him with open arms instead of accepting him because they had no choice. Most importantly, it would be nice to see a change in the character of Patch Adams. However, he acts immaturely even in the last scene.
Even though it's based on a true story, I still wondered how much of it was really true and how much of it was made up or sensationalized. I also wonder what the real Patch Adams thought of this. Then again, he would be happy with the promotion no matter what. The movie is like many films that miss the mark. It has the potential to deliver something memorable but it still doesn't.
For more information about Patch Adams, visit the Internet Movie Database.