A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Doc Hollywood from 1998 features Michael J. Fox as a hotshot, know-it-all young doctor waylaid by an accident on his cross-country drive to a job with a Beverly Hills plastic surgeon. Sentenced to perform community service at a small town's hospital, he disdains the good values and the narrowness he observes during his stay. This changes when he meets the girl of his dreams, who has no desire to move to the big city. A woman's breasts are seen, and a man and woman run around the woods urinating to scare away deer. Kissing is shown. Adults drink alcohol and smoke cigarettes. A man says he wants to get an attractive woman drunk, implying she might have sex with him then. A close-up is shown of a finger with a fishing hook stuck in it. There's one utterance of "f--k" as well as other cursing, including "s--t," "hell," "damn," and "ass."
What's the story?
Ben Stone (Michael J. Fox ) is DOC HOLLYWOOD, a D.C. resident heading for a job in a fancy Beverly Hills plastic surgery practice. He is flippant to patients and colleagues alike, and when heavy traffic slows him down, he drives illegally around it. His arrogant manner announces that he doesn't believe the rules apply to him. When he smashes his 1956 convertible Porsche Speedster into a fence while avoiding someone walking a cow in the middle of the road, the local South Carolina judge sentences him to a few days of community service. This causes him to miss his Los Angeles job interview. He's resentful and condescending to the townspeople in spite of the fact that they show him hospitality and warmth. He immediately misdiagnoses a 6-year-old with heart disease and scarcely apologizes to the older doctor (Barnard Hughes), who gets it right. The mayor (David Ogden Stiers) tries to sell him on staying for good, knowing he is attracted to Lu (Julie Warner), the town ambulance driver who is ethically opposed to eating meat. Ben insists he's L.A.-bound, so the wily mayor bets that he won't be able to bed Lu before leaving. In spite of himself, Ben starts to appreciate the sweetness of small-town life, but remains determined to leave. Given his plans, when the hard-to-get Lu kisses him, he decides it's not right to have sex with her. The movie comes to an expected romantic conclusion.
Is it any good?
As a Michael J. Fox vehicle, this film shows off the actor's masterful comic timing, but even he can't overcome the unlikability of the arrogant central character he plays. Transforming him into someone decent and generous enough to be worthy of his love interest, the empathetic and lovely Lu, is the necessary goal that Doc Hollywood fails to achieve. Ben talks down to the small-town folk: He "cures" a woman who can't see by simply wiping her glasses clean. He removes a fish hook from a clumsy fisherman's finger, a fellow later seen catching fish by detonating explosives in a lake. What's worrisome is that Ben is a seriously creepy guy. He tells a beautiful woman, "If you tell me you're here for a physical, you'll make my day." Eww.
On the other hand, a naked woman emerges from a lake and brazenly walks right up to a complete stranger, making no effort to cover herself or walk away quickly. That's pretty odd and, moreover, unlikely as well. When Ben, knowing he is leaving town for Los Angeles in only days, develops a conscience and refuses to have sex with the willing Lu, we wonder: Where did that decency come from?
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the good and bad of living in small towns. Would it be comforting to know everyone in your town, or would it feel like an invasion of your privacy?
Ben must take a journey from arrogance and superiority to decency and humility for the story to work. Do you think he persuasively makes the transition, or do you think Doc Hollywood fails to convince the audience that Ben has changed?
Why are there so many movies that idealize life in small towns? Can you think of some others?
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