We Watch Bad Movies So You Don't Have To
Video Vivisection: RTC Gets Microscopic on America's Favorite
Robin Williams Oeuvre (And Out)
Patch Adams Reviewed
By The Doctor
This is based on a true story.
In the wake of the cocaine clearance that came out of the John
Belushi mishap, so many of our most inspired American artists lost
that thing that seemed to be so intrinsic to the soul of their work.
Now the strongly felt, important soul-searching films that these
great originals torture us with today, hark back to one thing: that
night at the Chateau Marmont. Could a film like Patch Adams
really be the resulting tsunami in China felt from John Belushi's
butterfly wings flapping on Sunset Blvd.?
I have nothing against Hunter Adams himself, mind you; his obvious,
laughably inarguable take that "health is not just medical" is hard
to disagree with. But it doesn't take two hours and six minutes
of mugging and terrifying irresponsibility to cover ground previously
covered in the equally flat Randa Haines flick, The Doctor,
which at least had the sense not to pervade itself with a "please
send us money" self-importance. And if I have to see one more movie
with constant cutaways to Robin Williams smiling from left to right
with a tear in his eye, I'm gonna go postal and take it out on post-production
Universal's 1999 Patch Adams (directed by Tom Shadyac),
the "based on a true story" dramatization of the recent history
of Dr. Hunter "Patch" Adams, is one of these immediately cloying
film feasts that choke you like a freshly cut lawn on a muggy day.
As the film begins, the camera picks out a slowly moving bus creeping
out of the snowy mountains. Sincerely insincere stylized "Sincere
Music" helps us feel the mood instantly, like a dull neck pain.
But just in case you missed it, Robin Williams' deep voice, you
know, the one he uses when he's not being funny, rings out with
self centered poetry as he begins, "All of life is a coming home",
he's lost me already. I tried really. I was ready to like the movie.
I really was. But instantly I get the feeling he has no idea what
he's talking about. "Restless hearts," he continues, "trying to
find a way home." We cut to Williams, forlorn, looking out the bus
window at the passing world. Dejected; unshaven; Oscar winner. "Home,"
his voice over continues. "The dictionary describes it as..." ,
"Dante said...", "...lost the path...".
Cut to obvious establishing shot of a hospital with a sign, ("Fairfax
Hospital") obviously telling us where we are. But you know it's
coming. Where is it? It's coming...there it is! TITLE FADES ON:
"FAIRFAX HOSPITAL 1969." I get it, I get it. But since the movie
is a true story, and the mechanical style that ensues is deeply
artificial and dishonest, (the trademark of the new, drug-free family
man, Robin Williams) I guess it needs to keep reminding us. "Oh
right, it's true. I've been watching for 4 1/2 minutes and I've
Upon being admitted as a self committed mental patient in a psychiatric
ward, he immediately inspires an open communication with one of
the guards. "What's wrong with him?", Williams asks of the obviously
insane, Squirrel-a-phobic, Michael Jeter. The guard, who is just
now ushering William‚s in for the first time, shares with him that
Jeters‚ condition is a result of "constantly digging into the creative
potential of the human mind."
But, with the determination that he, Hunter Adams, a suicidal Pogostick,
can get the catatonic to speak, he sets out to "fuck" with the doctors
and upset the daily hospital operations at every chance he gets.
And upon scotch-taping a hole in Jeters‚ leaking paper cup, (and
peppered with a smile and a shrug,) one crazy man teaches another
crazy man to see the world anew and vice verse. Isn't that nice?
"You patched up my cup. I can go to the bathroom now, and I'm not
afraid of squirrels anymore." Jeter looks up at him with a "You
fixed my cup, Patch" look, bringing this acting class exercise to
a perfect close, and inspiring Williams to visit the Hospital Administrator.
"I want to leave, I want to listen, I want to help." The Administrator
says," I don't agree with your decision, Hunter." Williams turns
back from the door to look the Hospital Administrator in the eye.
"My name... is Patch." It is now 15 minutes into the movie. We dissolve
to an obvious establishing shot of a college. Where is it? Where
is it? We know it's coming...there it is! Fade up title: "2 years
later". Ugh!!! I'm exhausted of this. I haven't even cleared the
first reel of this movie and I'm so smothered in the crumbs of this
stale cookie; I find myself even longing for that other Williams'
stinker Wet Dreams May Come, where we have to suffer through
Williams losing his kids in a car accident, then dying himself while
on the job as another self-sacrificing doctor, and coming around
to discover that heaven is really just a Victorian style painting
made real, and that his angel is "Puck", re-thought of as a "boy
from the hood".
But I digress. Upon entering college, Williams, is an impossibly
unqualified medical student and Bob Gunton is a cartoonishly insufferable
College Dean who firmly states "PATIENTS DON"T NEED FRIENDS" and
other deeply embarrassing utterances just so every last idiot in
the audience can know for sure, "this guy's a real cock." OK. All
the pieces are in place. An insufferable, disruptive but soulful
medical student; a narrow minded Dean; now comes the fat, hateful
roommate, ("I'm a real medical student.") The dorky "I wish I was
you" guy, ("Did you buy that Gunton stuff?") and the lesbian ballbuster
turned potential lover ("You changed Me."). Now these three unlikely
heroes‚ all proceed to combine medical jargon and irresponsibility
to create comedy. Prime example; Williams soon to be famous sequence,
(like the Alien chest burster or the T-Rex attack; the shower
scene, "Frankly Scarlett", "Rick, help me Rick.") Williams ill-advisedly
sneaks into a "make-a-wish" kids ward and behaves in clearly perverted
"keep away from my kids" style, mugging and jumping and wearing
an enema bulb on his nose; acting like a clown; acting like a bee.
"I'm so funny," he silently tells us, "I'm so funny". The kids,
one by one, sit up in their beds, as does the piano player on the
score; the kids, their eyes alight at the "namby pamby" prancing
child molester; they can't contain themselves any more. They're
gonna laugh, you know they will. Hell, if I were a dying child I'd
be cracking up all over myself by now. But finally, here it is-
laughter, gales of it, drowns us in the glory that is terminal illness.
Soon, a Rascals "Good Lovin‚" montage sequence pulls us through
a parade of charming imagery. Patch makes jokes, the students laugh;
Patch acts funny, the nurses laugh; Patch goofs around, the girl
he likes laughs; Patch makes others laugh, the guy who admires Patch
laughs, the kids laugh, the staff laughs, the producers laugh. Patch
gets a 98% on his finals and we haven't seen him study yet. Oh well.
As Frank Zappa once said, "Water makes its own sauce."
The formula of formulaic cinema has fallen back on its own hind
legs and sprung backward with this ugly culmination of 15 years
of sub-formula moviemaking, to render truth and reality as false
dribble. If this really happened, it couldn't have happened this
way, but even if it did, WHO CARES! JUST BECAUSE IT HAPPENS DOESN'T
MAKE IT INTERESTING! The "pop up book" style storytelling, includes
a "keep your eyes shut until we get there" drive; a Dean of the
college finally getting his just desserts; the tragic death of a
featured character; incessant repetitive badgering by Williams about
patients having feelings too, (like this is all he talks about 24
hours a day); and a freeze-frame graduation sequence complete with
a superimposed "Where Are They Now" title that even Jar Jar would
Fact is, Robin Williams is too old for a promotional star vehicle
film anyway; something solely based around the jokes he can make
and the box office he can bring, while rendering story and character
unimportant. Is America tired of this? Are we ready for something
more? Are we tired of the belittling, self-satisfied mugging, and
smothering antics of the now out of touch Robin Williams? Ask Middle-America,
who made "Mork Adams" the #1 box office hit for two solid weeks
after its noxious advertising build up. So we'll see ya on Oscar
night, right? Isn't that what this is all about? "Now, for your
consideration, The end of Robin Williams movies...".