Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB. USA, 1998. Universal Pictures, Blue Wolf Productions, Farrell/Minoff, Bungalow 78 Productions. Screenplay by Steve Oedekerk, based on the book Gesundheit: Good Health Is A Laughing Matter by Patch Adams, Maureen Mylander. Cinematography by Phedon Papamichael. Produced by Mike Farrell, Barry Kemp, Marvin Minoff, Charles Newirth. Music by Marc Shaiman. Production Design by Linda DeScenna. Costume Design by Judy L. Ruskin. Film Editing by Don Zimmerman. Academy Awards 1998. Golden Globe Awards 1998.
This shamelessly maudlin comedy/drama that is “based on a true story”. Robin Williams gives a performance that basically copies his own formula from such hits as Dead Poets Society and Mrs. Doubtfire as a suicidal, aimless psychiatric ward inmate who decides to get out of the hospital and study to become a doctor. He discovers a power within himself to heal people through laughter and love, and decides to put this to good use as early as medical school despite the criticism of his superiors. Of course, Williams is fuzzy and funny while the other doctors are all bad guys and cartoon villains who want to be mean to everybody. Who really goes in for this slop? Williams is great when the film requires him to be funny, but his humour is so witty and smart that the touchy-feely scenes seem in comparison like he’s making fun of his audience. A climactic courtroom scene where a medical board decides his fate while he rambles on in a hammy speech about nothing in particular is embarrassing, and Williams performs it as if he knows this, while a mid-section turn towards a dark tragedy is grossly out of place with the rest of the film’s tone.