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What makes Patch Adams so frustrating is that it could have been a good film. Its ostensible theme—that the medical establishment is arrogant, outdated, and unresponsive to the emotional needs of its patients—is certainly valid. But the film's fuzzy political content gets submerged under layers of sappy sentimentality, crowd-pleasing speeches, and some of the most shameless audience-manipulation techniques this side of Triumph Of The Will. While Patch Adams could have been a scathing satire of medical bureaucracy, it is, instead, a slick vehicle for the twinkly eyed, life-affirming pixie-sprite persona that Robin Williams has employed for virtually every role he has played over the course of the last decade. Williams plays the title character in Patch Adams, a brilliant, middle-aged med student who upsets the establishment with his humorous, life-affirming antics and nonconformist views. Written by Steve Oedekerk (Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls) and directed by Tom Shadyac (Ace Ventura: Pet Detective), Patch Adams is about as dramatically subtle as the Ace Ventura films were comedically subtle. Not content to merely milk the natural climaxes of Adams' inspiring true-life story, Shadyac inserts false climaxes into nearly every scene, never letting the audience forget that it is watching something hilarious, heart-warming, and life-affirming. As a result, the film begins to resemble the dramatic equivalent of a porno movie, with emotional orgasms spewing forth at a rapid clip. By the time Patch Adams reaches its narrative climax, it has long since shot its dramatic load. The film's primary villain, a heartless med-school administrator, is played in heavy-handed, mustache-twirling fashion by veteran character actor Bob Gunton. Sadly, Patch Adams does not end with the slob (Williams) pushing the snob (Gunton) into a swimming pool, but rest assured, the filmmakers have concocted a final shot that is about as subtle, while serving as an unintentional homage to Private School For Girls.


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