By Tom Gliatto
November 10, 1997 12:00 PM

James Spader, Kyra Sedgwick, Helen Mirren, Anne Bancroft, Albert Brooks

Anyone who has ever spent time in a hospital, tried to get a simple explanation from a doctor or had a screaming go-round with an insurance-company drone will find at least one scene in Critical Care that tickles their humerus. Unfortunately, while scene by scene and line by line this would-be savage satire scores points at the expense of today’s medical and insurance communities, it fails to rise up from its gurney and truly soar. With buffoonish characters and a lackluster plot in which Spader portrays a doctor caught between two sisters (a sexy Sedgwick and a frumpy, Bibletoting Margo Martindale) feuding over whether to approve a life-sustaining procedure on their seemingly terminally ill father, Critical Care fails to build much emotional suspense over the fate of its doctor hero, much less the suffering of the near-corpses in the intensive care unit. The capable cast, including Brooks as a once eminent doctor turned wheezy drunk and the always intriguing Mirren as a compassionate nurse, tear into this material as if it were better than it is, while Sidney Lumet (Night Falls on Manhattan) directs with his usual efficient, if heavy-handed, touch. (R)