Patch Adams

on December 25, 1998 by Annlee Ellingson
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   Hunter "Patch" Adams (Robin Williams) believes that laughter is literally the best medicine, and will stop at nothing to bring his vision to the medical profession. When not butting heads with his professors, Patch spends his free time at the hospital, donning a red rubber nose to entertain kids and adults alike, even though med students aren't allowed to see patients until the third year. By the time graduation rolls around, Patch has already established the Gesundheit Institute, a home where people can come for free medical treatment--and a good time.
   Of course, it isn't always a smooth ride, and this is where "Patch Adams" falls victim to a predictable plot trajectory. After building his peers' confidence in his venture and getting them to believe in him, tragedy strikes, and Patch loses faith in his own cause. His buddies feel betrayed; even his enemies encourage him. But it takes an inordinately dramatic confrontation with God for Patch to become reinspired--only to be cruelly challenged by the medical institution. But when his friends and foes, patients and peers rally behind him, Patch triumphs over all.
   But to what end? Is Patch's cause really so noble? He claims helping others helps him forget his own problems. That can't be healthy. And he's generally not depicted actually practicing medicine. What he's really good at is joking around with his patients, and his unwavering determination to become a doctor lacks convincing motivation.
   Still, this is Robin Williams we're talking about, and he brings a magic and charm to this character that no one else could. The film's best moments come at the beginning when Patch is self-committed at a mental institution and helps his roommate overcome his fears of imaginary squirrels by shooting them with an equally invisible bazooka.
   The supporting cast is also noteworthy, though romantic interest Monica Potter ("Without Limits") plays the ice queen with such steely resolve that it would be tough to fathom why Patch would even be interested in her if she didn't so closely resemble Julia Roberts. Philip Seymour Hoffman (recently seen stalking Lara Flynn Boyle in "Happiness") plays Patch's suspicious roommate with an intimidating intensity.
   "Patch Adams" succeeds in putting a twinkle in your eye. Unfortunately, the story's a bit too formulaic to summon the tears it's going for. Starring Robin Williams, Daniel London, Monica Potter and Philip Seymour Hoffman. Directed by Tom Shadyac. Written by Steve Oedekerk. Produced by Barry Kemp, Mike Farrell, Marvin Minoff and Charles Newirth. A Universal release. Drama. Rated PG-13 for some strong language and crude humor
Tags: Starring Robin Williams, Daniel London, Monica Potter and Philip Seymour Hoffman. Directed by Tom Shadyac. Written by Steve Oedekerk. Produced by Barry Kemp, Mike Farrell, Marvin Minoff, Charles Newirth, Universal, Drama
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