|Written by Abbie Bernstein|
|Tuesday, 11 June 2002|
With its heart in the right place and its funny bone nearby (if muted), ‘Patch Adams’ is an agreeable man-against-the-system tale. If it’s not exactly "inspiring" (as the box blurb claims), it is often funny, consistently well-made and usually engaging.
‘Patch Adams’ is based on fact. There is indeed a real Dr. Hunter "Patch" Adams who -- after years of arduous efforts -- established the Gesundheit Hospital, where patients participate in their own care; he also spent 12 years after medical school treating patients without payment. Patch entered medical school at a more advanced age than most students, though perhaps in reality he wasn’t quite as old at the time as his onscreen alter ego (Robin Williams). This Patch goes through a life-threatening bout of depression before experience convinces him that he wants to heal people. Patch is accepted into medical school, where his grades are excellent, despite behavior that his professors deem eccentric at best, disruptive at worst. Patch believes that laughter is the best medicine and insists on entertaining hospitalized patients. While still a student, Patch sets up a free clinic, which puts him further at odds with the powers that be.
‘Patch Adams’ does contain one genuine tonal shocker that gives it unexpected kick. Otherwise, the observations in the script by Steve Oedekerk, based on the book ‘Gesundheit: Good Health is a Laughing Matter’ by the real Adams and Maureen Mylander, are not entirely uncommon but still make good sense. Williams has some funny, trenchant riffs and is surrounded by a strong supporting cast, with Hoffman (from ‘Boogie Nights’ and ‘Happiness’) and Daniel London as Patch’s biggest supporter among his fellow students, particular standouts. Director Tom Shadyac paces the piece well and doesn’t hammer the jokes.
The sound on the DVD is fine, though there are few scenes that will challenge home sound systems. In Chapter 13, there’s a delicate, specific piano solo and Rod Stewart’s "Faith of the Heart" sounds swell as it aptly plays over the final credits. The Chapter 17 mixture of a cheering crowd and an overly orchestral surge from Marc Shaiman’s otherwise well-judged score is a bit much, but this is a dramatic glitch rather than a sound problem.
‘Patch Adams’ is at times a bit too conscious of trying to be a crowd-pleaser, but on the whole, it’s both humane and entertaining.