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  • Writer's pictureDino Teoli

Flashback Review: Patch Adams (1998)

I have always been a fan of Robin Williams. His range as an actor is phenomenal. Most of his movies are entertaining and Patch Adams is no exception. To my astonishment, I was not aware that at the time the movie was released, the reviews were quite harsh towards both the movie and Robin Williams.

The movie was released in 1998 and besides Robin Williams, it starred Monica Potter, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Bob Gunton. It was directed by Bob Shadyac. "Patch Adams" was a commercial success grossing over $202 Million Dollars worldwide. The movie is based on the life of Dr. Hunter "Patch" Adams and his book "Gusundheit: Good Health is a Laughing Matter" who he co-wrote with Maureen Mylander.

The movie begins with Patch checking himself into a Mental Institute after a failed suicide attempt. He is basically looking for a reason to go on living. It is here that he realises that it is not the doctors that are helping him but the patients. The connection with other people make him feel whole. According to Patch, the best way to connect with people is to become a doctor, and that is what he does. He goes to Medical School.

He quickly realises that the medical profession is an impersonal one, pointing out that patients are referred to by their disease or condition instead of their name. He also realises that he will not be seeing any patients for the first two years. To counter this, he begins to go to the Hospital associated with the Medical School, and attempts to connect with patients through compassion and laughter. His attempts are not always successful, but does make an overall difference. School Management does not see this as innovative, but more of a distraction and a disruptive student who disregards authority.

Meanwhile, Patch comes up with an idea to have a clinic where people are treated firstly with compassion and occasional humour, and then with medical treatment. He and his close colleagues open up an underground clinic who help people who have no healthcare or are in need of someone to listen to them. Each person that goes to the clinic has to help someone else in some form or another. That is the basis of Patch's theory: compassion is part of the solution to treating medical conditions. The clinic becomes successful to the point of missing supplies.

As a type of jab to Patch, Dean Wallcut singles him out to be the one to prepare the hall to welcome the convention of gynaecologists. Patches creates a replica of two legs with the door to the hall being the vagina. This has to be one of the best comedic situation of the movie. See below what I mean:

After this incident, Dean Wallcut finds out about the clinic and really has it out for Patch. He expels him from school. Patch decides he will fight the decision and does. He goes in front of the courtroom style committee and defends his ideals, but most of all, he expresses that what he is fighting against is indifference of the medical profession. He is granted the right to graduate.

Bottom Line

As I mentioned earlier, many movie critics gave this movie a really bad review mostly because it did not really follow the true life of Patch Adams. People like the late Roger Ebert calling the movie "Shameless....merely a tearjerker. It extracts tears individually by liposuction, without anesthesia". I guess Roger was not holding back the day he wrote the review. There are many more like this, but I simply think they all missed the point of the movie.

A movie is supposed to be entertainment for a couple of hours. A place to escape and forget about your daily troubles. This movie is simply that, entertainment and Robin Williams was the best actor to play this role. The movie was modified from the original book, probably to make it more appealing on the screen. It hits all the marks of a great movie. It takes you on an emotional journey from sadness to laughter back to sadness and then to joy. The movie looks at taboo subjects like disease and death which is still not much talked about today. I think the movie wanted to make a point that the medical profession is quite rigid and set in its ways. Overall, this was a very entertaining movie. I think the proof that the movie did reach out to many people was by grossing $202 million worldwide.

I give this movie a 8 / 10. Maybe not a family movie with young children because of the profanity and some nudity, but an excellent Friday night movie.

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