Based on the true life story of a doctor who advocated laughter as the best medicine.
Any fears that Robin Williams has entirely forsaken his trademark blue genie/cross-dressing mania for a line in beardy compassion and sensitive soul-searching should at least be partly allayed by a movie that seeks, awkwardly on occasion, to combine both. Despite the odd imbalance, however, it bolsters the track record of director Shadyac who, mostly in conjunction with Oedekerk's screenplays, has exhibited a deft touch in harnessing the unpredictable improv whirlwind of the physical performer.
After institutionalising himself with suicidal depression, the turning point for Hunter "Patch" Adams (Williams) is helping fellow inmate Rudy (Michael Jeter) gun down an infestation of imaginary squirrels. He'd found a thread of connection. He'd helped another suffering soul. He'd discovered his calling. And so exit loony bin, enter med school.
The real-life Hunter Adams was a man intensely dedicated to his work, yet prepared to stretch slapstick to snapping point in pursuit of his ideology, and on that basis, there is surely no one more qualified than Williams to portray him. And dressed in shirts somehow louder than his own outsize character, the man delivers another memorable turn. Yes, the reins are allowed to slip for some showcase routines - and the finale is practically "Oh doctor, my doctor" - but Williams is well supported here: London as Adams' nerdy but devoted comrade, Hoffman as his bitter, bookworm room-mate, as well as Gunton, Harve Presnell and Peter Coyote in smaller roles.
Connection as far as the film goes depends ultimately on whether you buy into its philosophy - and whether you're convinced that such a hairy old goat could woo Monica (Martha Meet Uncle Tom Cobbley And All) Potter. So the prognosis is generally positive, though there may be a touch too much sugar in this motion picture panacea, which is, in places, shamelessly sentimental to an extraordinarily manipulative degree.
True romantics and those with joy bubbling from every pore may well be carried along and if Shadyac's aim was to fashion a film kindred in essence to Adams' own outlook and work, then this feelgood extravaganza must come pretty close to hitting that mark.