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'Patch Adams'

By Rita Kempley
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, December 25, 1998

  Movie Critic

Patch Adams
"Patch Adams" and Robin Williams don't quite hit it on the nose. (Universal)

Tom Shadyac
Robin Williams;
Monica Potter;
Philip Seymour Hoffman;
Bob Gunton;
Daniel London;
Peter Coyote;
Michael Jeter;
Richard Kiley
Running Time:
1 hour, 45 minutes
Contains some strong language and crude humor
If laughter is the best medicine, "Patch Adams" is but a sugary, fitfully amusing placebo. Indeed, those in sore need of busting a gut had better look elsewhere for comic relief.

Loosely based on an autobiography by Arlington's own Hunter "Patch" Adams, M.D., the feel-good-or-else movie stars Robin Williams as a zany physician who believes in the curative powers of love, compassion and comedy and risks his career to sell this philosophy to the medical establishment.

Of course, the establishment is not receptive to his radical credo, which includes wearing a bulbous red nose while clowning around with one's patients. But Patch does attract a few disciples, including the nurses who see the positive effect his hijinks have on the patients.

While a medical student at a Virginia college, Patch and his followers open a free clinic in a rural community and are subsequently accused of practicing medicine without a license. This sets up a trial before the state medical board, where Patch eloquently pleads his case and makes his points about the sorry state of national health care.

Williams, at his most beatific, brings warmth, compassion and the customary mania to the character, who changes not one whit over the course of the movie. Though he goes from a mental patient to fully functioning physician, Patch remains the same saintly soul from beginning to end.

Tom Shadyac directs from a screenplay by Steve Oedekerk, a stand-up comedian who collaborated with Shadyac on "Ace Ventura: Pet Detective" and "The Nutty Professor." Perhaps the two were intimidated by the reality-based material, which they have treated with undue reverence and timidity.

The expiration date on this pill has definitely expired.

© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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