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Movie Review

Patch Adams

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some strong language and crude humor

Reviewed by: Mia Burruss

Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Teens Adults
115 min.
Year of Release:

Starring: Robin Williams, Daniel London, Monica Potter, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Bob Gunton, Josef Sommer / Director: Tom Shadyac

Hunter Patch Adams comes to the darkest point of his life and discovers the hope of his calling “to help people.” After attempting suicide, Hunter Patch Adams commits himself to a mental hospital. It is here that Patch, as he prefers, learns how to look past the obvious. He discovers the best way to help a person who is sick is to first treat the patient as a human being, then address the illness.

Based on the real life story of a man who had a passion and a gift for helping people, “Patch Adams” (Universal), is a story of finding your purpose and pursuing it with all diligence.

Robin Williams plays Hunter Patch Adams with familiar zeal and schtick. He makes you laugh despite the fact that you have seen his antics before. Some of the humor has sexual undertones. Some of the humor is straight crude.

Patch’s fervor for helping people drives him to challenge the status quo of the medical industry. He wants to interact with patients in his first year of medical school, which is strictly forbidden. This doesn’t stop Patch. Patch’s hunger to help is stirred when he realizes that so many people needing health care are refused because of the bureaucracy involved with insurance and hospital procedures. He contacts former mental hospital mate, Arthur Mendelson, and acquires the use of his house not far from the school. Here, they open a sort-of clinic offering a warm smile and basic medical attention.

Monica Potter delivers a delightful performance full of warmth and subtle charm as Patch’s love interest and fellow medical student, Carin. She and another medical student are convinced by Patch to help him run the house to help the hurting. Unfortunately, a painful turn of events with Patch and Carin places Patch on the brink of quitting. After expressing his deep feelings with God (as he talks to the sky), hope returns in the form of a butterfly.

Patch has zeal and knowledge, but no respect for anyone who would stand in the way of him realizing his dream to help patients. This gets him into many confrontations with Dean Walcott (Bob Gunton), the head of the medical school in Virginia he attends. For all his zany antics, the school cannot deny that Patch has some of the highest scores in the school. His proven knowledge of his studies and his “testifiable” charm with patients saves Patch from expulsion.

In the final analysis, Patch’s compassion and commitment is to be admired if not his tactics. He did much to help hurting people primarily by making them laugh. And he challenged the established medical industry to look at patients as people rather than diseases. He was able to establish a facility to treat those challenged with sickness called the Gesundheit Institute, which is still in existence today.

Viewer Comments
This movie was aweful! It made me never want to see a Robin Williams movie again. The scene where he’s angry with God, is very shameful (Satan gets his message across). Who is man, that they should speak to God in that way. God receives no glory in this movie. Don’t waste your time or money on this movie!
—Phillip Bowers, age 43
I loved this movie! I clearly felt this was an adult movie, but that small children really wouldn’t understand the crude humor, and thus would remain unaffected. It seemed that all that was included was important to the story line. It was truly a brilliant movie, and as usual, Robin Williams was superb! How I pray he will fall in love with the Lord Jesus! I always wish he could know how much God loves him!
—Nancy, age 45
I agree with the previous viewers comments but further, would strongly urge you to see this movie. Both my husband and I thoroughly enjoyed this movie and were touched deeply by it. I was especially moved by the scene where Patch is obviously questioning God and trying tounderstand His ways, and is nearly ready to give up on Him… then, an awesome sign from God appears. It’s beautiful! He is in control and has a plan. It is a very tender, funny and meaningful movie, and you’ll leave having shed some tears but with a wonderful feeling inside.
—Diane, age 36
Well done movie, good acting. Very liberal viewpoint on medical care however. Not sure my time was wisely spent viewing the movie!
—Faith Ann Halnan, age 58
Patch Adams was a wonderful movie about someone who truly cares for people. It was a little sad, but it touched my heart. It is hard to see a good movie unless it has sex and violence in it, this movie is perfect for the family and won’t offend Christians.
—Greta, age 36
I thought this movie portrayed favorably an on-again, off-again relationship with God. In this case, the relationship ended “on” and the character even alluded to God during the final monologue. Also, in the butterfly scene, an example of unorthodox prayer, of the kind prayed by Abraham, David and Christ… the plea to God in times of uncertainty and anguish.
—Rebecca S. Ray, age 19
I would have preferred another actor playing the lead role in this film. All too often Robin Williams gets in the way of the characters he is playing. We have seen his comedy bits all before in other films. The film is far too black and white in its portrayal and demonization of the medical establishment—Patch is all good and those big bad medical guys—why, if they could only learn to smile a little more—everything would be OK. Witness the somber looking bunch sitting on the platform during Patch’s inquisition. Boo the bad guys! Stealing medical supplies is condoned in this film. Deliberately disobeying a person in authority is winked at.Practicing medicine without a license seemed to be the order of the day.And where did he get all the materials to construct his welcoming structure for the gynos conference? And how long would it have taken to cook all that spaghetti he and one of his “patients” take a dive into at the end of the film. That’s a lot of pasta!
—Kent, age 49
I have just been reading the reviews for Patch Adams. Not one single person mentioned the “mooning” at the end of the movie. That was what disgusted me the most about the movie, in addition to his attitude aboutGod.
—Candy Zaborowski
I think Patch Adams is a well done movie and definitely worth seeing. Yes, there are some offensive slants to the humour, but they never get out of control and are actually very funny. Patch Adams somehow succeeds in combining both humour and a heartmoving serious drama into the same film. My opinion is that only Robin Williams could convincingly act this role. This movie emphasizes the value of people and of life, even at the very end of life. As a christian, I found Patch Adams' sincere care for people in the face of obstinate and prideful professionalism to be inspirational. Interestingly, Ebert, with Siskel and Ebert, gave Patch Adams one of his 10 worst picks of the year. Ebert knocked the way Patch Adams—an individual with his own issues and problems—played the role of a hero. For myself, this issue is exactly what I found to be commendable: even in the midst of our own failures and struggles, may we find the time and effort to practise loving and valuing others.
—Todd Adams, age 31
I loved Patch Adams. It was such a great movie because he had such a great heart and was so kind to everyone. It really inspired me to be more like that and to talk to people and to communicate with them.
—Lauren Weessie, age 24
I have a hard time enjoying movies anymore. I get so frustrated with Hollywood, but then again, what do I expect? A great story that was filled with crudity, language, and offensive things at every turn. Even a potentially great scene after [a death], turned into a complete flop with me. Anger with God is displayed and promoted but then when he sees the butterfly, nothing is mentioned and people are left to believe whatever they want about God. New agers could hail that seen as promoting their beliefs. Once again, I am so disappointed with what Hollywood puts out that I feel crazy to ever step into another movie again. The tide has turned, nothing will save it I am afraid. I would never let any child see this movie!!
—Lee Lee Dart, age 34
I cannot believe the reviewer only gave this movie 3½ stars. I can honestly say that this is one of the best thought-provoking, self-examining movies of 1998/1999. The movie’s premise went far beyond a doctor just wanting to help patients by being funny—it has a deeper rooted message. I believe this movie is great for Christians and non-Christians alike, aside from the obvious inaproppriate humor. If I rated this movie I would have to give it 5 stars. This movie had a great blend of comedy, drama, and tragedy.
—Brian Pedigo, age 19
This film could have been the feel good movie of the year but I was extremely offended by Robin William’s character when he denounced God. If fact the only reason I remained in the theatre after he referred to God as not being compassionate and saying that he is “not worth it” was to see if he, just as openly, thanked God for his many blessings somewhere at the end. This monologue could have told the non-Christian audience that God is small and success can be accomplished through man. That particular scene seemed to make the remainder of the film meaningless because it seemed to be without God. Perhaps that was just a little Hollywood but I am curious about the real Hunter Patch Adams and what he feels is the “source” behind his success.
I have been a fan of Robin Williams ever since I was a young kid. My dad even made me an Orkan space suit just like his and I would wear it to school (don’t tell my mother this. I would change out of my regular clothes once I got to class. heh heh). Robin Williams has always inspired me in some way. As I have grown older I have appreciated his range in acting. He could do both the serious role (“Awakenings”, “Good Will Hunting”) as well as his trademark manic comedy. The man simply put is brilliant and one of the great talents of our time. In “Patch Adams” the (based on) true story of a maverick medical student with a vision he combines both the character from “Good Morning Vietnam” and the Malcom Sayer character from “Awakenings”. “Patch” Hunter Adams is rebel with a cause. His mission to take medicine to an area where it should always have been. Not as means of profit but as a means of healing. This means connecting personally with each patient. Laughter being the best medicine here. I found this too be a heartfelt and warm story though I would caution those who are a little more conservative to watch out for some of the crude humor. (which actually had me in stiches I might add. but that’s just me for what it is worth.). All in all if you can look past that and take the message from the film: “Do good to your fellowman and look past the bottom line” then I think you will be all the better for seeing it. Quite an enjoyable and funny movie. at times even a tear.
—Don Lambirth, age 30
It was a pretty good movie. It was hillarious. It had a few sexual comments and some strong language… It has good morals. There is a little strong language and one sexual comment but there is no sex. I recommended it but you might want to use caution for kids under 10. It is a tear jerker.
—Larry Whitsburgen
Comments from young people
I really enjoyed this movie. A lot of people criticized it for the title character’s attitude towards God. However, I really think that most of us would react the same way if we had just lost someone we loved and were feeling very guilty about the death. I thought the butterfly was the perfect way to show God’s love and control even in tragic situations. Though the end seen at graduation was uncalled for, I really think this is a great movie. Robin Williams was wonderful, proving he can do acting besides inane comedies. I thought this movie was one of the best I’ve ever seen.
—anonymous, age 14
I have now seen Patch Adams twice and both times I was moved to tears more than once during the movie. This movie is very refreshing for two reasons. 1. It is about people wanting to help other people no matter what it takes. 2. It is based on a true story. It’s good to know that there are people like that in this world. How often we forget!!
—Katey, age 15
I thought is was a great movie! It had its share of surprises, many laughs, and even tears if you tend to cry. Patch was a man who cared for people, looking past their disabilities, and he made a major difference in their lives. He showed how much one person can do when they put their selfishness aside and just love people!
—M.D.L., age 14
I must say that I really enjoyed this movie and the way Patch helped people makes me want to become a doctor more now than ever. Yes, I am a fan of Robin Williams and I think that this is one of his best movies. There was no sex but I wouldn’t take young children to it due in part to the fact that there is some sexual innuendo and that they would have a hard time understanding it. Robin was great!!
—Tabitha Kent, age 16