Posted by: ckckred | November 27, 2012

Patch Adams

Robin Williams plays a doctor who believes laughter is the best medicine

Patch Adams, a dramedy about how how laughter is the best medicine, feels misplaced.  The movie intends to be a comedy and a tearjerker and exploits every means necessary to praise its eponymous hero, an obnoxious wannabe doctor who cares for his patients and annoys his superiors.

Patch Adams opens up with its title character (Robin Williams) checking himself in a mental hospital stating that he is suicidal.  After discovering that the doctors don’t listen or help him and the patients do, Patch suddenly cheers up, leaves the asylum, and decides to become a doctor.

Two years later Patch enters medical school, which apparently ignores the fact that Patch doesn’t appear to have an education in medicine before.  Patch acts as a class clown in the school and becomes friends with a fellow student named Truman (Daniel London) and falls in love with another student named Carin (Monica Potter, expressing almost zero emotion in her role).  Patch doesn’t listen to the medical school’s rules and wants to break out.  What does Patch believe is the best medicine?  Laughter.

Patch Adams is based on a true story and really paints a kind portrait of its hero.  The real Patch Adams was critical of the movie, particularly of its portrayal as himself as a comedian and not as a professional doctor and it’s hard not to see why.  The fictional Patch Adams jokes his way around, and his comic routine is particularly groan-worthy.  In one scene Patch enters a room of children with cancer and then starts dancing around with bedpans on his feet and a rubber nose on his face.  I’d be freaked out if I were one of those kids.

Patch’s constant  gags are all puerile and obnoxious, less of a character and more like a personified version of Robin Williams, who has played many roles of loud characters.  Williams can be strong when given the right role, but can easily cross the line when given a bad one.

But what’s even worse than the unfunny humor are the intended tearjerker scenes.  Yes, Patch Adams does not only want the audience laughs, it wants them to cry.  Spoilers Alerts following this!  Here are a few examples of what the film does for sobs.  In one scene, a grumpy patient Patch treated dies right in front of his family.  Director Tom Shadyac trumps it up in the most dramatic way possible, sad music and a slow moving shot.  But what’s even worse is Carin, who eventually falls over heels for Patch, is murdered by one of Patch’s patients.  Killing the love interest is what Patch Adams will do for tears.

The ending of Patch Adams mirrors that of another Robin Williams movie Dead Poet’s Society.  Patch is tried in court for running a freelance hospital and defends himself by giving some sort of nonsensical speech about how everyone is a doctor (he doesn’t even answer the question the judge brings up).  And before the scene ends, a bunch of the chemotherapy children come to the court with red rubber noses on their faces.  This scene is supposed to be sentimental and uplifting but seems completely wrong.  Why are these children out of bed?  Isn’t anyone worried they could have their immune systems hurt?  End of spoilers.

It’s sad really, because the movie stars one of today’s best actors, Philip Seymour Hoffman.  Hoffman’s given the role as Patch’s rival or rejects his teachings.  He’s easily the best thing about the movie but even he doesn’t prevent it from falling apart.

But Patch Adams is a mess.  There’s a good movie to be made about the subject matter but this isn’t it.



  1. When this movie came out the real Patch Adams also went around to area hospitals as some type of promotion.

    Sadly, if my memory is correct, the depiction of his style of humor is accurate in the film. I kept thinking to myself I do not want that person as my doctor.

    • Yeah, if he was my doctor I’d call the police. Thanks for commenting.

  2. Robin Williams makes me want to stick my head in a buucket of lava.

    • Yeah, I can’t remember the last time he was in a good movie. In roles like Patch Adams he’s really obnoxious.

  3. Your approach and anger in writing this review is what is disgusting. You obviously don’t get the movie or the type of person that Patch Adams is to this world. And sadly, the people that have responded thus far to your inane rant are the very type of people that Patch Adams would like to see change, SO OUR WORLD MIGHT THRIVE! Your negativity is overwhelmingly reflective of who you are…an angry, pompous, close minded idiot, that is just one of the masses who wants to feel important, all at the expense of others. If I met you or any of the people that have responded to you on the streets, I would run as fast and as far as I could to get away from you. You are the type of people that has brought this world into an angry hell. You have no heart, and that was the gist of the entire movie. No wonder you hated it! You have no heart, clearly. Not only do I love Patch Adams and his mission, but I love Robin Williams as well and have personally worked with him on a film he shot in SF. I had the great gift of seeing him for 12 hours straight, getting to just hang with him while we waited patiently for our little stint. So, we talked. He is genuinely a sweetheart and extremely calm and loving behind the scenes. He has heart. So does the producer of Patch Adams, Tom Shadyac. You people really need to take a look at how you affect the world. It isn’t good, in the least.

  4. […] cloying in pictures like Dead Poets Society, Jakob the Liar, and, most notoriously, Patch Adams (my review caused one commenter to call me “an angry, pompous, close minded idiot, that is […]

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