Volume 92, Issue 56

Thursday, January, 1999

in the books


Williams' doc dies

TQ drives while Timbaland's effort crashes

The script is in the mail

Williams' doc dies

Photo by Melinda Sue Gordon

IT'S HIS FIRST DAY. HE'LL LEARN WHERE TO HOLD THOSE BOOKS EVENTUALLY. Robin Williams plays a mature medical student who finds childish antics help the healing process in Patch Adams.

By Ian Ross

Gazette Staff

Take a tablespoon of medicine and it will cure what ails you. Open up the hatch to a bottle full of the same sludge and you'll be lucky if you're just praying over the porcelain.

The same can be said for the recent Robin Williams feature, Patch Adams. The first hour will tickle your funny bone with witty banter and warm your heart with courage and emotion. Unfortunately, the rest of the film fails to hold such acclaim, as the characters and plot crumble, leaving the viewer's attention to wander elsewhere.

By the end, the penicillin in the moldy Fuzzy Peaches stuck under your movie theatre seat will hold just as much importance as the medical humour and sorrow of Patch Adams.

The concept is appealing at first glance. The decade snapshot starts in the mid '60s and follows the real life story of Hunter "Patch" Adams – a man who battles depression in his youth and finds solace in helping others through laughter and medicine as a middle-aged medical student. The real Adams is a man with the mind of Einstein and the soul of, well, Robin Williams.

Not surprisingly, director Tom Shadyac insisted the script would only see the light of day with Williams in the lead and the recent Academy Award winner fails to disappoint. He dances around a children's cancer ward with a bed pan on his head like only Williams can. A combination of wit and wisdom shines through the legendary actor making Adams not only believable but identifiable to the audience. You hurt when Adams hurts and you laugh when Adams laughs.

Unfortunately, even the wit of Williams cannot keep this bullet-ridden plot from crashing on the operating table as time winds down. The plot is stale and overdone, documenting Adams as an outsider rebelling against the establishment with fresh ideas and unorthodox approaches.

Bob Gunton plays the role of the higher-than-God villain Dean Walcott, who spends nearly the entire length of the film with one goal – getting Adams expelled. Not exactly an original idea.

There's even a personal tragedy thrown into the story line which only seems to belong because the film's formula requires it. It arrives too suddenly and leaves before any true emotion can be transferred to the audience. Getting a feeling of deja-vu with Williams in the mix? That's right, it's Dead Poets Society with a twist of novocaine through the intravenous drip. Trade in Shakespeare for a textbook of human anatomy and you have a clone even Dolly the sheep would be proud of.

The supporting cast does little to bring this plot back from the dead. While they demonstrate they can follow a script and speak English, they prove little else. The only bright spot to emerge under the efforts of Williams is Philip Hoffman who plays Mitch, the anal roommate of Adams. Raised on the ethics of the establishment and spited by the care-free attitude of his roomie, Mitch eventually warms to the antics of Adams. Unlike his co-actors, Hoffman does his job leaving few questions about his character's motives or attitude.

However, the plot is fatal no matter how much energy Williams and Hoffman offer. The story may have happened in real life to Hunter "Patch" Adams, but the plot has been rehashed too many times to survive on the silver screen.

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Copyright The Gazette 1999