Patch Adams is a true story, based on the life of, well, Patch Adams. After his wife dies, Hunter Adams checks himself into a mental institution. It is there that he decides that what he really wants to do in life is to help people. It is also there that he receives his nickname Patch. So he enrolls in the Virginia Medical School, where he quickly becomes the class clown. But a brilliant class clown. He gets the highest grades in the class, while at the same time, he gets on peoples nerves. Instead of learning through books, Patch wants to meet the patients and get to know them as people. But of course, everyone around him thinks he nuts for bucking the system. Patch fights for what he believes, and in the end, he wins out.
Patch Adams is a pretty formulaic story. Outsider tries to change the system from the inside. He has problems and fights battles against those that don't want to change, and in the end everyone accepts him and he gets to do things his way. Something we've all seen millions of times. The difference here is that it's all based on a real person. While the movie at times felt edited, I suppose it was necessary, otherwise it would have been 3 years long. And towards the end of the movie, there is a sequence that absolutely will tear your heart out. I still can't stop thinking about it. At the time it happened (and no, I won't say what it was), I thought it was going to ruin the movie for me. Things like that just don't happen in mainstream Hollywood movies. But the characters used it as a building block to finish off the film in a strong fashion. Just be warned, even with Robin Williams, Patch Adams isn't all fun and games.
Like I said before, the plot line is formulaic, so it's up to the actors to carry the film and make it memorable. There is no doubt in my mind that Robin Williams is one of the most talented actors in the business today. Only recently he's gotten the recognition he deserves, but he has the ability to make you laugh and cry all in the same breath. He wears his emotions on his sleeve, and takes you along for the ride. Monica Potter as his love interest managed to hold her own again Robin, and her character really drove the movie, especially emotionally.
Overall, Patch Adams was a wonderful film. It hit all the emotional chords, and it left you feeling good. And while it was funny and uplifting, it's also sad. But once you realize that someone actually lived this life (and continues to live this life), it makes it that much more amazing.