A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that much of Patch Adams takes place in a hospital and includes many emotionally intense scenes involving dying or sick patients. There is also an off-screen murder of one of the lead characters and past sexual abuse is strongly alluded to. Aside from this, the film does have some profanity, and Robin Williams' free-associative humor veers into the occasional off-color sexual reference and innuendo, plus one scene where his naked bottom is exposed.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
As a patient in a mental hospital, Patch Adams (Robin Williams) learns that his mental health is improved more by helping other patients than by treatment from the doctors. From there, it is off to medical school, where he manages to be at the top of his classes while spending most of his time at the hospital making the patients laugh. How could the faculty object to this? Could it be because a first-year medical student might interfere with a patient's treatment and cause serious harm? No, it can only be because they are fuddy-duddies who just can't remember how to have fun! And while we're on the subject of fun, how about stealing supplies from the hospital for a little clinic that Patch and his friends set up in their spare time? And what goes on at that clinic? Medical students who have no idea how serious the problems are "treat" patients with bandages and kindness. When the inability to diagnose the severity of illness has the most profoundly tragic results, Patch only has a brief crisis before putting that darn clown-nose back on and getting back to the serious business of making patients laugh.
Is it any good?
There are a lot of important points to be made in this nonetheless shallow movie. It's about the dignity that all of us deserve when we are scared and vulnerable, and about the importance of humor in the direst of circumstances. But Patch Adams undercuts its own arguments by presenting us with a hero who is more narcissistic than humanitarian.
If the real-life Robin Williams were a doctor, he would be the real-life Patch Adams, who believes that doctors should treat the patient, not the disease, and that sick, frightened people need to feel that those who take care of them are paying attention. Unfortunately, PATCH ADAMS is so unforgivably manipulative that in the concluding climactic scene, set in a courtroom just in case you weren't sure who the good guys and the bad guys were, you may find yourself rooting for the uptight by-the-rulebook dean of the medical school.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the dignity that all of us deserve when we are scared and vulnerable and about the importance of humor in the direst of circumstances. Do you think the movie undercuts its message?
What do you know about the real Patch Adams. How can you learn more?
Who would play you in the movie about your life? What story would it tell? Write a scene that would appear in your life story.
- In theaters: December 25, 1998
- On DVD or streaming: July 17, 2001
- Cast: Monica Potter, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Robin Williams
- Director: Tom Shadyac
- Studio: Universal Pictures
- Genre: Drama
- Run time: 115 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: some strong language and crude humor
- Last updated: March 14, 2020
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