I’m going to be honest with you, I can’t stand the stand up comedy of Robin Williams. Growing up, I used to like it and thought it was pretty hilarious, but two things have changed since then. First off, my voice changed and I grew hair in strange places, but secondly, Williams stopped doing cocaine, which as any artist will tell you, seems to neuter them creatively (Eddie Van Halen, I’m looking at you). But hey, at least in his later years he seems to have mellowed out and Patch Adams seems to be a progression of that.
Steve Oedekerk (Bruce Almighty) adapted the book that Tom Shadyac (Evan Almighty) directs here. Williams plays Hunter Adams, a man who attempts to commit suicide and admits himself to a mental institution, where he finds a connection with his roommate in the ward. He decides to rededicate himself, and goes to medical school where admittedly he’s a little bit older than some of the other students there, including his highly qualified roommate Mitch (Philip Seymour Hoffman, Capote). His intellect is exemplary, but he seems to throw off the school’s staff and president (played by Bob Gunton of Shawshank Redemption lore), because his personable nature goes against his vision, and Adams’ “excessive happiness” eventually cracks the visage of Corinne (Monica Potter, Without Limits), who becomes the requisite love interest to the film’s protagonist.
And let’s face facts, the film is what it is, and that’s a pretty transparent Oscar push for someone that won one already. A lot of people flocked to see it, over $200 million worldwide to be exact, but to be fair, the story surrounding Adams is an inspirational one and what he’s managed to getdone in the face of the establishment is commendable. There are flaws in the way the story is told that drag it down to the level of predictable heartwarming comedy, and that’s due to the limitations of the creative team that doesn’t have as much of a knack to hit some of those dramatic marks as one might think.
And when Williams does dramatic films like this, the larger question seems to be whether you’re going to get the Good Morning Vietnam Williams, where he runs around with free reign and limited curtailing, or if you get the Good Will Hunting Williams that seems castrated, overmedicated and dull. There’s a mix of that here, something that he seems to have done for several films, and while he does a decent job as the title character, it’s that damned story that disappoints.
The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 channel track that accompanies Patch Adams isn’t too bad at the end of the day. Sure, there’s quite a bit of dialogue in the film, but it’s also inclusive of songs designed to fit the period, and they sound clear and well focused, with just a touch of subwoofer activity thrown in. Call this one capable without being effective.
As a VC-1 encoded transfer is 2.35:1 widescreen, this is another smaller release that is better visually than I was expecting. Blacks are pretty deep for the most part and there’s some good depth to the image overall. There was some image softness you had to combat from time to time, and the image foreground is a little dull, but otherwise this was fine.
Things start off with a commentary by Shadyac that is quite active, considering that he’s the only one on the track. He talks about the cast and talks about what was real, versus what was reel, along with his thoughts on how the production came together, and the usual “cast and crew were awesome” rhetoric, with the occasional supporting character. He gets quite involved watching the film and brings in a lot of material, but it’s well worth the invested time. A fifteen minute making of look at the film is next, with the real Adams getting a chance to talk about his work and what he wanted his life story to look like cinematically. Mike Farrell, ye of M*A*S*H fame and producer of the film also talks about realizing Adams’ life to film, along with the dramatic liberty and actual fact components of the film. And the cast (well, Williams and Potter) talk about what it was like to work on the film and their thoughts on Adams. It’s a nice alternate look at the production. Eight minutes of deleted scenes are next, the most notable being some backstory surrounding Adams’ admission to the psychiatric ward. Five minutes of bloopers follow which are admittedly pretty funny and include Williams’ giggling between takes, and a five minute still montage is next. Seven minutes of storyboard to film comparison footage follow, and the trailer completes the disc.
Overall Patch Adams possesses many qualities that many people have seen before, and some of them have been told a lot more convincingly. The performances are capable and if you have the standard def version and feel like upgrading then by all means do so. But if you’re new to the film, you’re not missing anything earth-shattering in my opinion, so you can give this a rental at best.