Patch Adams [1998]

Director: Tom Shadyac
Stars: Robin Williams, Monica Potter, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Daniel London, Bob Gunton
Genre: Biography, Comedy, Drama
Rating: PG-13 (Parental Guidance Suggested)
Runtime: 116 minutes

Patch Adams raises two schools of thought: There are those who are inspired by the true story of a troubled man who finds happiness in helping others--a man set on changing the world and who may well accomplish the task. And then there are those who feel manipulated by this feel-good story, who want to smack the young medical student every time he begins his silly antics. Staving off suicidal thoughts, Hunter Adams commits himself into a psychiatric ward, where he not only garners the nickname "Patch," but learns the joy in helping others. To this end, he decides to go to medical school, where he clashes with the staid conventions of the establishment as he attempts to inject humor and humanity into his treatment of the patients ("We need to start treating the patient as well as the disease," he declares throughout the film). Robin Williams, in the title role, is as charming as ever, although someone should tell him to broaden his range--the ever-cheerful do-gooder à la Good Will Hunting and Dead Poets Society is getting a little old. His sidekick Truman (Daniel London) steals the show with his gawky allure and eyebrows that threaten to overtake his lean face--he seems more real, which is odd considering that Patch Adams does exist and this film is based on his life. Monica Potter is the coolly reluctant love interest, and she makes the most of her one-dimensional part. While moments of true heartfelt emotion do come through, the major flaw of this film is that the good guys are just so gosh-darn good and the bad ones are just big meanies with no character development. Patch Adams, though, does provide the tears, the giggles, and the kooky folks who will keep you smiling at the end. --Jenny Brown

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