Robin Williams’ sheer talent brought life to every one of his characters, starting with his breakthrough role as Adrian Cronauer in the 1987 film Good Morning, Vietnam. A decade later, Williams starred in another true story about a physician and founder of Gesundheit! Institute, Patch Adams. Many can even recognize the film by a single picture of Williams with a red clown nose. But while Patch Adams was a huge box office success, it actually didn’t fare well with the critics.
Patch Adams only managed a minuscule 22 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, and renowned film critic Roger Ebert only gave it a measly 1.5 stars. Ebert didn’t hold back and declared the film made him want to “spray the screen with Lysol.” But the criticism didn’t stop there, as even the real-life Patch Adams agreed with critics. But what made the physician have such strong feelings against a movie about him?
The beginning of Patch Adams featured Patch in a mental institution due to his suicidal thoughts. The institution was where he learned to implement humor in his treatment practices and gained inspiration to study medicine at the Medical College of Virginia. But the doctors, particularly Dean Walcott, disagreed with how Patch approached the patient’s bedside manner in a friendly way. And that, combined with his frequent jokes, resulted in Patch’s expulsion.
During his time at college, Patch developed a relationship with fellow medical student Carin Fisher (played by Monica Potter), who starred alongside Nicolas Cage in Con Air. The pair found Gesundheit! Institute and a former cottage turned into a free clinic. Unfortunately, a troubled patient murdered Carin before later committing suicide. Guilt filled Patch after Carin’s death, and the compassionate physician was hit with another bombshell when Walcott tried to shut down the clinic. Thankfully, he managed to avoid the shutdown and graduated from medical school
However, the real-life Patch Adams was far from thrilled when his life after he watched how his life adapted for the big screen. Thankfully, his disappointment wasn’t with Williams, and Adams praised his portrayal in the heart-warming biopic. After Williams passed away in 2014, Adams even thanked him and talked about how compassionate the actor was. Adams’ qualms with the picture were more about how his image was inaccurately portrayed on-screen, with the focus being more on his humor and less on his activism.
Despite the differences, however, certain aspects of Adams’ real-life love story with his wife Linda got included in the film. And the real-life physician still helps run the actual Gesundheit! Institute, much like his film counterpart. So, while the movie may not have been the real Adam’s cup of tea, there are still positives to be taken away from the situation.