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Critical Condition
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by Jack Sommersby

"Not Exactly What the Doctor Ordered"
2 stars

It's always a pleasure to watch Richard Pryor work, but it'd be better if it were in a worthwhile film.

Richard Pryor is in fine form in the otherwise-forgettable medical comedy Critical Condition. Playing dubiously-respectable businessman Kevin Lenahan, whose rancid ideas for real-estate projects range from an offshore shopping mall to a movie theatre with thirty-two screens and eighteen seats in each theatre, Pryor is fitfully funny, especially when shockingly realizing it's him, and not a loan shark he's unknowingly bugged for the undercover cops inside an adult bookstore, who's holding an incriminating suitcase of diamonds. But the material affords him not a whole lot in the way of comic opportunity. During his appearance in the courtroom, Lenahan fakes an anxiety attack and is subsequently sentenced to a psychiatric hospital for thirty days for observation, with the judge averring that if Lenahan is faking, he'll begin serving his one-year sentence immediately. (The scene is far less amusing than a similar one Pryor pulled off with panache in 1981's superb Bustin' Loose.) Through circumstances brought on by a raging electrical thunderstorm that's flooded the only bridge onto and off the hospital property, Lenhan finds himself impersonating a doctor whom the patients and staff continually turn to as the hospital problems grow more and more severe by the minute. Surprisingly, through his knack for eclectic ideas (like using a helicopter's rotor-action to air-condition the hospital) he manages to run the show with efficiency. And during this tumultuous course of events, wouldn't you know, Lenahan learns the virtue of unselfish sacrifice and altruism (as his character in Bustin' Loose also did, only it wasn't forced and mawkish as it is here). The squalid screenplay by Denis and John Hamill (both of whom also penned the vacuous Turk 182!) relies on mediocre gags like Lenahan putting way too much plaster on a patient's broken leg, and recommending to an older lady that perhaps a glass of prune juice will alleviate her constipation. And don't even get me started on a non-comedic, hoary subplot involving a dangerous escaped prisoner trying to put some serious distance between himself in the hospital, and who belongs in a Dirty Harry sequel instead. Director Michael Apted, whose first comedy this is, shows a heavy-handed touch, and a truly talented array of supporting actors that includes Rachel Ticotin, Ruben Blades, Joe Mantenga, Bob Dishy, Randall "Tex" Cobb and Garrett Morris are left flailing in the wind for lack of decent material. Yet there's Pryor, against all odds, managing to escape the puerile proceedings with his integrity intact. Low-caliber cinematic endeavors of this variety are well below someone as titanically talented as him; and any more like this, and he might be inclined to pay a visit to a career-revitalizing hospital in the near future.

Seek out "Bustin' Loose" instead.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=2935&reviewer=327
originally posted: 05/11/06 08:33:58
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User Comments

3/17/03 Jack Sommersby Flawed as hell, yet Pryor's energy makes this watchable. 3 stars
9/29/01 Andrew Carden Pretty Good...Richard Is Funny. 4 stars
8/06/01 Mr. Hat Why does it get so serious and violent? All except for when Pryor acts like a dog r fucked 2 stars
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  03-Apr-1987 (R)
  DVD: 06-Jul-2004



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