Sunday, August 21, 2016

PATCH ADAMS: Blu-ray (Universal 1998) Universal Home Video

In my 2010 review of Barry Levinson’s Man of the Year (2006), yours truly suggested, “There needs to be a special place in heaven reserved for the utterly gifted Robin Williams; a man so generous with his ability to make us laugh at the absurdities of being human, that to simply classify him as a ‘comedian’ is to shamelessly distill those formidable talents into crass pop-u-tainment. Like Chaplin before him, Williams is a consummate raconteur and astute philosopher of life: deceptively weighty in the tiny nuggets of wisdom he peppers throughout his bravura routines. His genius lies not in the myriad of rapid fire laughs, farcically - if generously – ladled one upon the next, nor in his unrelenting sugar-spun delivery – the wisp and waggle that confounds the senses as it tickles the funny bone.” Alas, in 2010, I could not have imagined a world without Williams’ virtuosity; certainly, not in my own lifetime, despite Williams having a solid twenty years head start on life’s journey. Has it really been more than two years since Robin Williams bid us all a sudden farewell? My God, where has the time gone? And sadder still to reconsider what has become of our contemporary strain of comedy in the movies without him to steer this now rudderless ship into port. Even at his most ribald, Williams’ vein of court-jesting was skewed toward seeing the shocking fragility, silliness and ineptitude of the human world; a reflection, perhaps, of the raging insecurities from within, yearning to make meaning and sense of it all through the rubric of comedy.
Yet, in preparing this review almost two years after Williams’ passing, I continue to grapple with my own conflicted sorrow over his untimely death. It goes without saying Robin Williams was very much a part of our family’s good-humored movie-viewing, a sort of benevolent go-to on rainy/snowy afternoons when a pick-me-up was sorrowfully needed. However, in the two years that have since gone by, I have sincerely resisted revisiting Robin Williams at the movies; his passing on Aug. 11, 2014 somehow altering my appreciation for his talents, not as they have been diminished in my own meager estimation, but rather because time has only served to illustrate the peerless perfection gone away for good. I find myself being unable to sit through the wit without as painful sadness ready to engulf, reminding me, as though reminders were needed; first, and rather obviously, that Robin Williams is no longer with us; although I have no doubt he is presently entertaining the angels, apostles and the saints right now with his bawdy take on the incongruous nature of an eternal heavenly rest. Perhaps, I am still in mourning.
Yet, somehow knowing Robin Williams was morose and deeply troubled behind the laughter only serves to stir a wellspring of tears, regenerating his legacy now, tainted and offset from that celebration of his life, more impossibly false and marred by silent tragedy.  But no, Robin Williams' great gift to the world ought not be remembered in this way; rather, for his affecting fondness for the audience. His film career has constantly striven toward loftier platitudes, even when the films have been less than ample to sustain his grand insanity. So, perhaps it is not surprising to find my admiration for Williams’ work reached his creative pinnacle in Tom Shadyac’s Patch Adams (1998); the tale of an unhappy and near suicidal middle-aged man, rediscovering not only his chosen calling in life, but better reasons to live it, perhaps even more fully than he might have at first perceived; the title character based on a much-celebrated and semi-biographical account, Gesundheit: Good Health is a Laughing Matter’ written by the real Hunter Doherty ‘Patch’ Adams (co-authored by Maureen Mylander) and astutely consolidated into a manageable – and frequently vivid – screenplay by Steve Oedekerk. Patch Adams works, not so much as a biographical account of Hunter Adams’ early life and career, but as a seminal reflection of Robin Williams’ own struggles to find self-worth and make meaning of the world: a project about one man whom he so clearly admires, could relate to, and, was able to breathe creative life into, through his inimitable brand of graceful, sensitive humor.
In one of the fictional Patch’s penultimate speeches, an impassioned Williams addresses his detractors with, “You treat an illness – you win, you lose. You treat a patient I guarantee you win every time!” And although Robin Williams is likely to be long remembered for a myriad of other performances, meant more directly to capitalize on his gifts of farce, as an all-around entertainer he could have wished for no finer an epitaph than this movie. Whether Patch is challenging himself to do better, caught in a search for soulful satisfaction, while redefining the first precept of the Hippocratic Oath – ‘do no harm’ – or taking it to the absolute extreme, by attempting to inject more than a modicum of hope-enriching goodness in a roomful of various sick and terminally ill patients trapped in their unflattering sort of depressive limbo, too much with their silent thoughts, Williams characterization of Patch Adams brings a sort of unapologetic dignity to the forefront of his performance. Patch dismantles the self-professed pomposity of being a ‘good doctor’ in his soul-searching quest to ultimately become a great one. Williams invokes a certain kind of ‘every man’ heroism into this odyssey of self-discovery; questioning, probative and even off-putting to the status quo. Alas, from the vantage of 1969 – the year our story is set – Patch’s journey was rife for monumental disappointments. The fictional Patch Adams comes into conflict with the school’s administrative pufferfish, Dean Wolcott (Bob Gunton) who sees no joy in the purpose, goal or place of modern medicine, and finds Adam’s verve for discounting the ensconced authority of their chosen profession in favor of a more humanistic approach irresponsible ‘feel good’ nonsense. At a juncture where most patients arrive to surrender themselves completely to the capacities of a ‘good doctor’, Patch seems to simply be inferring the best cure of all is a little levity brought forth to its most absurd conclusion.
Like the very best comedies, Patch Adams becomes embroiled in its sincere ambition to do a great deal more than simply give the audience a multitude of reasons to be amused in the dark. The picture’s endeavor as consciously-made social activism put forth as undiluted entertainment remains a mantra most movies made then – and virtually all made today – would never attempt, and most doctors remain sorely unaccustomed to in their daily practices. Not surprising, director, Tom Shadyac has cast his movie with important dramatic talents rather than foppish, comedic ones; from Robin Williams, who has always harbored the base hallmarks of humanity in his best work, to the late Philip Seymour Hoffman; yet, another titanic loss to Hollywood’s ever-evolving artistic community. Gosh almighty, 2014 was not a good year for saying ‘goodbye’ to the very best Hollywood had to offer. Hoffman, who could – and so eloquently did – discover compassion in even his unlikeliest of roles, as in, playing the bombastic storm chaser in 1996’s Twister, or bumbling boom operator in Boogie Nights (1997), and could play it right down the middle with an ominous streak of iniquitous homoerotic lasciviousness, as in his dazzling performance as the prep-school bully, Freddie Myles in The Talented Mr. Ripley (1998), herein emerges as Mitch, the tightly wound heir apparent to a family legacy in medicine; a bright mind utterly lacking a human soul until he is able to at least acknowledge, if never entirely embrace Patch’s precepts for the business of doctoring with a smile. 
And Hoffman is only one of the solid talents on tap in Patch Adams. We get an eclectic blend of the established and up-and-comers in this movie; from Peter Coyote’s gruelingly embittered father and husband, Bill Davis, dying of pancreatic cancer, to Monica Potter’s doomed Carin, an uppity student, resisting Patch’s mercy; to Irma P. Hall’s clear-eyed nurse, Joletta, who begins by admonishing Patch as yet another wet-behind-the-ears egotist, but eventually comes around to his way of thinking, and finally, Josef Sommer’s benevolent Dr. Eaton – Patch’s one friend in this otherwise austere community of dyed-in-the-wool physicians who have taken their ‘life-saving’ far too seriously to actually be effective or even of meaningful passing comfort to their patients. In all, Patch Adams excels at establishing this roster of sensitively honed performers and their alter egos without ever dwelling upon the particulars of their character traits; actors who are able to tap into their own charity and disseminate it to the audience. And even more miraculous, the exercise never devolves into stiff archetypes. It is something of a grand disappointment in movies today, most have abjured from providing anything more or better than thumbnail sketches of the people they are supposed to be playing; the part, just a part, and not a person to be believed as anything better or beyond an attractive stick figure with no soul. But Patch Adams is a movie all about the breadth of compassion built into the human soul, set to repudiate and withstand that harsh and malingering world just beyond these ivy-covered halls of academia.
Patch Adams may not get all of the particulars of ‘Hunter Adams’ life just right (in point of fact, there’s a lot of leeway and artistic license applied throughout), but at its core Shadyac’s movie delivers the sort of unabashedly sentimental one-two knockout punch to the heart, teetering on the brink of becoming artificial and maudlin, but never entirely transgressing into sticky treacle that could so easily have befallen the exercise and caused it to fall entirely out of fashion. Love, after all, is a universal of life; like good, as the evil and hate and compassion and contempt; polar opposites for a fascinating influx of narrative threads, brought even more unexpectedly together in their satisfying crescendo; the movie’s penultimate graduation ceremony. Having sidestepped Dean Wolcott’s repeated endeavors to end his brilliant career even before it has begun, Patch accepts his diploma before a gathering of his peers - in the raw - having cut away the backside of his graduation gown to reveal more than just his unbridled disdain for Wolcott’s waning brand of academic stuffiness. It’s the sort of showy – ‘literally’, as well as figuratively – finale I personally could have done without; a gilding of the lily, as it were, that nevertheless manages to pull off one final outburst of exuberant laughter from a story as much about tears of sadness as it remains ensconced in drawing upon the infinitely more satisfying tears of joy – or, laughter through tears – and effortlessly punctuated by an upsurge of composer, Marc Shaiman’s supremely audacious underscore. 
For all its attributes, Patch Adams was ill-received by the critics at the time of its release, with such noted, arguably jaded, voices from the balcony seats calling it ‘syrupy, ‘overbearing’ and ‘obnoxious’. Even the real Patch Adams disavowed the picture, suggesting Shadyac and Robin Williams had taken a very socially-conscious life devoted to activism and public service and simply distilled it into 2 hours of slick movie-making with the fictionalized Adams as its ‘funny clown’. While Adams was also critical of Williams’ performance and his failure to donate ‘even $10’ in support of helping to build the real Adams’ dream hospital, after Williams’ unexpected death, Hunter Adams did release a rather about-face eulogy for the man and the picture that, in part, read “…we mourn this tragic loss and continue to treasure his comic genius – a wonderful, kind and generous man… his personality, unassuming—he never acted as if he was powerful or famous. Instead, he was always tender and welcoming, willing to help others with a smile or a joke…Contrary to how many people may view him, he actually seemed to me to be an introvert (valuing) peace and quiet, a chance to breathe—a chance to get away from the fame that his talent has brought him. This world is not kind to people who become famous, and the fame he had garnered was a nightmare. While saddened, we are left with the consequences of his death. I’m enormously grateful for his wonderful performance of my early life, which has allowed the Gesundheit Institute to continue and expand our work.”
Geared as a Christmas release, Patch Adams would gross $25.2 million on its opening weekend alone, more than half its initial outlay of $50 million, ranking #1 at the box office and going on to take in a whopping $202,292,902 worldwide by the end of its theatrical run. It is rather gratifying to see the general public did not feel the need to heed the warnings put forth by these cultural mandarins, sitting in review of the picture.  While I continue to place very little ‘merit’ in box office tallies alone as a barometer of any movie’s greatness, it is, I think more than rewarding to see this picture particularly embraced by a show of dollars, thus, encouraging the bean counters in Hollywood to make more. And Patch Adams proves a maxim inherent in the best of movie-land’s Hollywoodized accounts of real people, laughingly referenced as ‘biopics’. Despite taking some severe artistic liberties to tell its story; chiefly, in presenting Adams as a middle-aged incumbent in medical school (when in reality, he came to the calling at the tender age of most of his then contemporaries – twenty-six), and concocting the wholly fictional character of Carin to support filmdom’s never-waning desire to transform even the most unlikely narrative into something of a conventional ‘love story’ – in this case, bittersweet and tragic (the inspiration for this character actually a male friend of Adams who died under similar circumstances), the reincarnated Patch Adams is very much joyously fictitious, getting the main points right without placing too much – if, in fact, any emphasis – on ascertaining the particulars of Adams’ life. Like so many great bios, it is the ‘first impressions’ that count and continue to linger thereafter; the appearance of truth more important and fulfilling than truth itself.
Patch Adams begins in Fairfax Hospital 1969, an asylum nestled in the hills of Virginia. Having self-medicated his depression for years, of his own volition Hunter ‘Patch’ Adams commits himself into the care of Dr. Prack (Harry Groener) in the hopes to better understand his suicidal thoughts. What he quickly discovers is a hospital administration disinterested in unearthing a cure for any of its clientele; Patch assigned to a cell with the manic, Rudy (Michael Jeter), who suffers from delusions of squirrels coming to attack him. These fantasies even prevent Rudy from venturing across the relatively modest room to use the facilities. Recognizing he will never get well inside Fairfax, Patch also comes to the realization he was born to find the redeemable in others, proving it by entering Rudy’s imaginary fear as the brave warrior, pretending to pick off ‘the squirrels’ using his fingers as loaded pistols. Patch is also introduced to another inmate, Arthur Mendelson (Harold Gould) who, until recently, was renown as one of the mightiest intellects in the scientific field. Art teaches Patch to see beyond the problems directly set in his path, thereby helping Patch see more clearly the road leading to his newfound vocation.
Flash ahead two years: Patch enrolls to become a doctor, attending classes at the prestigious Medical College of Virginia. His ambition will need all the help it can get, however. His roommate, Mitch Drummond (Philip Seymour Hoffman) is both arrogant and condescending, even having the audacity to accuse Patch of cheating on his exams because his grades seemingly have come too easily and are in line with his own hard-won grade point average. Carin Fisher, a partner in their study group, finds Patch’s frequent – if harmless – attempts to get to know her better annoying and idiotic, and, tells him so to his face. Could the world really be this cruel? Ostensibly, yes: Patch is the outcast. His theories as to how best humanize the craft of practicing real medicine fly in the face of Dean Wolcott’s austere and systematic quest to remove the essence – the very soul – from those aspiring to don the white coat; a trend Patch repeatedly bucks and outright refuses to ascribe any merit. Patch is not without his empathizers; Truman Schiff (Daniel London), a fellow student who believes in the sanctity of preserving life while treating the patient instead of focusing on the illness. To prove his point about human beings’ desire to connect on a personal level, Patch and Truman crash a meat packer’s convention; Patch adopting a Texas accent and partaking of the conference’s silly parlor games, in the process becoming the life of the party. Thereafter, Patch carries his social experiment one step further; mildly accosting an elderly woman with a toothy ‘hello’ in the street; the woman responding in kind, though clearly thinking Patch a nut, until she momentarily pauses to return his smile with a polite nod. Patch also has a silent champion in Dr. Eaton, who thinks Wolcott’s views on medicine are downright archaic; a perspective more circumspectly shared by the Head Dean Anderson (Harve Presnell).
Patch wants to treat patients as people, and begins his one-man ambitious campaign to overhaul the campus’ mentality, first, by visiting sick and dying children in the cancer ward (real patients of the real Hunter Adams); making light of their disease by offering amusing sight gags, such as transforming a rubber ball into a shiny red clown’s nose. It’s shameless, but effective; the children stirred from their relative depression into giddy fits of joyful laughter. Dean Wolcott is incensed. After all, this is a hospital, not a sideshow carnival. The children need rest to recuperate. But Patch disagrees, inquiring the purpose of staving off death (i.e. prolonging life) if life itself is confined to an interminable reflection upon the inevitable. What patients need is a diversion from their medical woes; also, a friend to empathize with their circumstances. But Patch quickly realizes he and Wolcott will never see eye-to-eye on this bone of contention.  Wolcott makes several thwarted attempts to have Patch expelled from the program, particularly after Patch, having been put in charge of the arrangements for an obstetrics convention, leads these esteemed and rather Teutonic colleagues into an auditorium by way of a gigantic pair of paper mache legs hoisted in stir-ups. Wolcott is enraged and tries to kick Patch out for what he deems his ‘excessive happiness’. Instead, Patch goes to the top – to Dean Anderson, who vetoes Wolcott’s decision. Nevertheless, Anderson encourages Patch to steer clear of Wolcott until graduation.
In the meantime, Patch has made considerable progress establishing a personal connection with Carin. She confides her abject hatred of all men stemming from an implied rape and family incest; true confessions to form a bond that gradually blossoms into real love. At the same time, Patch gets the inspired notion to establish the Gesundheit! Institute; a place in the country far removed from all the institutionalized rhetoric of hospital policy and procedure, where doctors can care for their patients on a personal level. Carin and Truman are inspired by Patch’s example and elect to spend their free time helping Patch establish the basis for this respite inside a rickety cabin situated on land owned – and freely donated by Arthur Mendelson.  The personal toll their commitment requires has yet to be fully tested but begins in evidence on all of their grade point averages. Still, Patch insists they are contributing to a very promising future of which they can continue to be a part of after graduation. Alas, Patch’s dream for a safe haven for all is not to be. Only a few weeks before graduation Patch, Truman and Carin are introduced to the sincerely disturbed, Lawrence ‘Larry’ Silver (Douglas Roberts); a wealthy heir suffering from ominous visions he is unable to control and frequently is prone to act upon. As the needs of Patch’s free clinic clientele mushroom, the institute runs out of badly needed supplies to see the project through. Patch has an idea, disguising Truman as a corpse and loading his stretcher full of supplies stolen from the hospital’s supply room. The pair narrowly escapes detection from Wolcott, but are amusedly observed by head nurse, Joletta.
Returning home to discover a message from Larry on her answering service, and unable to make immediate make contact with Patch, Carin elects to go to Larry’s estate and provide him with exactly the sort of compassion Patch would admire. It is a miscalculation from which she is never to return. For no sooner is Carin admitted into Larry’s study than he begins to behave erratically. A short while later Patch is summoned to Dean Anderson’s office. Believing someone has tipped off the hospital administrator about their earlier theft of supplies, Patch is emotionally wounded to learn from Anderson, Carin has been murdered by Larry. In a fitful rage, Larry assaulted her with a shotgun before turning the loaded weapon on himself. Unable to bring himself to accept the loss, even going so far as to assume full blame and responsibility, Patch decides to leave school. Perhaps Wolcott was right: he is not suited to the profession of doctoring after all. Truman tries to talk some sense into Patch but to no avail. Returning to that picturesque spot on the hillside, where he earlier explained to Carin his future plans for the Gesundheit! Institute, Patch angrily addresses God directly, adding “…you rested on the seventh day. Maybe you should have used it for compassion.” Miraculously, Patch’s sorrow is intruded upon by a single monarch butterfly. It playfully lands on his medical bag and suitcase, before migrating over to his shirt, landing near his heart. Earlier, Carin confided in Patch, as a child she often wished to be reincarnated as a butterfly. Now, Patch takes this as a sign.
Reinvigorated, Patch learns from Mitch one of their mutual patients, the elderly and infirmed Mrs. Kennedy (Ellen Albertini Dow) has seemingly lost the will to go on. Remembering a childhood wish the old woman earlier expressed, Patch fills an inflatable pool with buckets of freshly cooked pasta noodles; Mitch and Truman accompanying Mrs. Kennedy in her wheelchair to the edge and Patch hoisting her into this sticky tub of goo where they frolic and play as the hospital’s nursing staff look on in utter amazement. Patch has finally crossed the line. Accused of practicing medicine without a license, he is ordered by Wolcott to vacate the premises immediately. Instead, Patch consults Mitch who urges him to fight the decision by appearing before the school’s Board of Directors for a final decision. It could go either way for Patch. And indeed, at the outset, the odds are decidedly not in Patch’s favor as the presiding head, Dr. Titan (Richard Kiley) demands he explain himself to a packed room of his peers during the board’s inquest. Patch freely confesses to administering to the poor, the underrepresented and the outcast; all of whom have been denied medical help through ‘legitimate’ channels at their hospital. Patch further insists to the Board he is the victim of Wolcott’s insidious need to destroy any hope for anyone wanting to become a doctor unless the incumbent completely submits to his will and thereafter surrenders any and all compassion for humanity at the front door.
“You treat an illness, you win, you lose,” Patch insists, “You treat a patient, I guarantee you win every time!”  The Board is impressed with Patch’s verve; his eloquence, and ultimately, moved to reconsider their decision after a contingent of the terminally ill children arrives, placing red clown noses over their own in a show of support. The Board elects to allow Patch Adams to graduate with full honors, Adams arriving to accept his diploma butt naked and defiantly parading past Wolcott for the last time. A freeze-frame of Patch’s ebullient satisfaction is married to an epilogue, explaining how, during the next twelve years, he opened a privately funded home-based family practice, administering to more than 12,000 patients without payment, malpractice insurance or formal facilities. We learn Patch also purchased 105 acres outside of Hillsboro, in Pocahontas County, West Virginia where construction on the Gesundheit! Institute was later begun; an organization that continues to thrive to this day and is viewed by the real Hunter Adams as not mere socialism, but a reformation of how and why health care gets practiced. As the epilogue further acknowledges; a waiting list of more than 1,000 physicians are ready to leave their current practices and partake of Patch’s revisionist approach to modern medicine. What the movie could not acknowledge is what came next – a campaign of international philanthropy and goodwill; Adams and his cohorts travelling around the world to raise public awareness while continuing to administer Patch’s particular brand of homespun treatment; also, to raise a million dollars to build a fully functional facility on that same track of land acquired back in 1971. Ground was broken in 2011. Fundraising continues to this day. Patch Adams is 71 years young. Long live ‘the clown’!
In retrospect, Patch Adams remains a movie of extraordinary kindnesses bestowed upon the movie-going public. It isn’t often any movie comes along to question our hearts, furthermore, to coax us into looking outward from the inside in order to find our inner happiness, and, tug at its strings, while pursuing the one-time honored ‘golden rule’ all movies used to ascribe to, but so few do today, merely to entertain without some liberalized diatribe and/or indoctrination. The life and legacy of Hunter Adams has clearly proven an inspiration to the picture’s director, Tom Shadyac who readily explained, “Patch Adams challenges all of us to do more…to do better, in a society that’s all about me-me-me. As such he’s a threat to all of us because his radical thinking is all about giving, not getting. On one hand, it’s extraordinarily threatening, but it’s also liberating. It’s just a better way to live.” “I didn’t want just some goofy doctor movie,” the real Patch Adams would later admit, “But the world needs some positive images in the media about following your dreams. Some stimulation to help and bring hope to our society.”
In courting a myriad of offers suddenly lobbed at him upon publication of his book, Adams was circumspect and genuinely disheartened, describing his first encounter with typical ‘Hollywood types’ – all gold chains, their eyes greedily glazed over with dollar signs, ready to exploit the prospect of turning another man’s life into their glossy garage sale. “I could see there wasn’t a real human being in the room,” Adams later confided, “I wasn’t human. I was a product. Like a candy bar.” But then Adams turned to his old pal, Mike Farrell; formerly an actor, then a producer. Farrell would begin by taking up the cause to find a home for the project, but finish by agreeing to raise the necessary capital to make the movie himself; the new focus on the dehumanization of the medical profession and Adams’ lifelong crusade to restore its fundamental ‘do no harm’ precept by giving everything to the journey for the betterment of all. In hindsight, Patch Adams is a transitional piece in Tom Shadyac’s career; then, primarily known for deliciously featherweight screwball comedies veering far away from any sort of reality-based intelligence. Patch Adams is decidedly different than say Shadyac’s raw remake of The Nutty Professor (1996) or Liar, Liar (1997). In a career spanning only ten feature films, Patch Adams now appears to mark Shadyac’s apex as a landmark, unassumingly imbued with extreme positivism as a testament to the man who inspired its story in the first place.  Yet, in spite of all the passion Shadyac has poured into the picture, at its core it remains a Robin Williams movie – perhaps, his finest. In closing out this review, I find myself again welling with a few tears, bittersweet and heartfelt, for the very great loss of Williams’ – and not simply for his legendary off-the-cuff sense of humor. So, if I may, I would like to address these parting comments to the late Robin Williams’ spirit, as it continues to emanate deep and penetrating warmth as a flannel mackinaw or nourishing hot bowl of good soup might.
Dear Robin:
Today I laughed and cried in tandem again as I have not for a very long while at the movies. And from this catharsis I awoke several hours later with the unhappy startle to recall that while you are no longer with us you are never farther from our hearts desire today than our movie screens; perfectly preserved as that vibrant artifact of life: ensconced as a delicate piece of the great American movie-land folklore. I trust the road ahead has once again made you strong. But the path you left behind will continue to illuminate, inform, and best of all, enrich and entertain our lives for many centuries to follow. Your free and breezy sense of humor, your effervescent passion for life, has spread the sunshine along many a graying field. God may bless those who have done half as much to light the way. But He surely has saved a special place at his table for you today. Thoughts and prayers renewed to the family of Robin Williams, on the anniversary of his loss to us all – though, undeniably, more directly felt by them. 
Sincerely, NZ
Universal Home Video has done Williams, Shadyac and Patch Adams proud with this long overdue Blu-ray release. It is gratifying to observe the penny-pinchers have taken a backseat; the coffers opening wide for this brand new 1080p hi-def scan that shows no untoward digital manipulations and gives evidence of having been the beneficiary of some modest and more recent clean-up to ready the original film elements. Colors are a sublime feast, the screen bathed in cinematographer, Phedon Papamichael’s gorgeous copper-tinted hues. Flesh tones have been superbly rendered. The lushness of the green outdoors comes bursting through as though with a freshness of instant Spring to leap off the screen. Both contrast and fine detail have been expertly rendered. Prepare to be royally entertained by the visuals of this engrossing tragi-comedy. The wait is over. Patch Adams is back! The 5.1 DTS audio is as much a revelation, with dialogue and effects subtly directionalized and Marc Shaiman’s memorable score breaking forth from the sonic floodgates to augment the poignancy of the performances throughout. Universal has also ported over virtually all of the extra features that were a part of their lavishly produced DVD; albeit, left in their original (and uninspired 720i) format. While image quality on these extras is highly suspect and more than a little disappointing, it is good to see Universal simply did not elect to lop them off altogether for a quick n’ dirty Blu-ray release. No, this one gets all the bells and whistles; a comprehensive ‘making of’ with interviews from Shadyac, the real Patch Adams and other cast and crew; also, deleted scenes and outtakes, an audio commentary and the movie’s original theatrical trailer. Bravo and kudos to Universal Home Video: back from the brink of mediocre hi-def releases with this disc. Patch Adams is required viewing. But make sure you have a full box of Kleenex on standby. There are moments within where you will definitely need it. Bottom line: very highly recommended!
FILM RATING (out of 5 – 5 being the best)

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