When too much is just right

I admire film critic Roger Ebert greatly, but he and I do not always agree. He disliked Patch Adams, and he praised The Producers.

Patch Adams had extra significance to me when I watched it again recently because Robin Williams, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Michael Jeter are all dead.

Although friends stated that Hoffman’s drug use was under control at the time, on February 2, 2014, he was found dead in the bathroom of his apartment in Bethune Street, West Village, Manhattan by a friend – playwright and screenwriter David Bar Katz. Hoffman was 46 years old. Detectives searching the apartment found heroin and prescription medications at the scene, and revealed that he was discovered with a syringe in his arm.

“Patch Adams made me want to spray the screen with Lysol. This movie is shameless.”—Roger Ebert

HeartRobin’s character, Patch, stands atop a cliff and decides not to jump because “You’re not worth it.” I presume he was talking to—or at—God. I wonder at Robin’s reaction to remarks by Roger Ebert.

In the years since the film was made our society has hardened even more. More people are, as Patch said, numb from the heart up. I can make room for some cinematic excess when dealing with such topics. There is no question that the movie is over the top, but I think that has its place when dealing with the hardness of hearts.

Consider, if you will, Roger Ebert’s review of a movie that went spectacularly over the top, the marvelous Animal House. Mr. Ebert said this, among other bits of praise:

The movie is vulgar, raunchy, ribald, and occasionally scatological. It is also the funniest comedy since Mel Brooks made “The Producers” (1968). “Animal House” is funny for some of the same reasons the National Lampoon is funny (and Second City and “Saturday Night Live” are funny): Because it finds some kind of precarious balance between insanity and accuracy, between cheerfully wretched excess and an ability to reproduce the most revealing nuances of human behavior. In one sense there has never been a campus like this movie’s Faber [College], which was apparently founded by the lead pencil tycoon and has as its motto “Knowledge is Good.”

Mr. Ebert had an affinity for excess and outrage. I am encouraged to celebrate that quality in myself.

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