January 11, 1999 12:00 PM

Robin Williams, Monica Potter

Remember the hilarious scene in Wayne’s World (1992) in which Mike Myers emoted excessively and the words Oscar Clip kept flashing on the screen? If only an identical subtitle would pop up during Patch Adams every time Williams shamelessly pours on the pathos in this blatantly manipulative movie.

Adams tells the real life—though loosely adapted—story of Hunter “Patch” Adams, a physician with nonconformist views. Williams portrays Adams as a maverick medical student who believes—really, really believes—in the curative powers of laughter. This means he does battle with practically the entire medical establishment for the right to stick the red bulb of an enema pump on his nose, the better to entertain sickly children in a hospital ward. His obsessive need to make ailing patients laugh, even those already halfway through the pearly gates, comes across as borderline bizarre.

Potter, the poor man’s Julia Roberts (she looks and sounds just like her, but minus the smile), whines her way through the thankless role of Williams’s love interest. Tom Shadyac (Ace Ventura: Pet Detective) directed without a trace of subtlety. (PG-13)

Bottom Line: Bad medicine

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