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We Watch Bad Movies So You Don't Have To
Video Vivisection: RTC Gets Microscopic on America's Favorite Funnyman
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 editing equipment.

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 already forgotten."

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 find annoying.

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...".


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