Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (August 2, 2016)
Let's say you're looking through the dictionary and you encounter the following definition: "Perfectly adequate and somewhat entertaining film that possesses absolutely no particularly outstanding characteristics". For what movie would that definition be written? Doc Hollywood!
Yes, Doc Hollywood provides the definition of a gently and mildly amusing film that largely entertains but never stands out in any way whatsoever. It's never less than competent and professional, but it's never more than that, either.
That said, Doc Hollywood certainly is an above-average film, especially for one that embraces so many cliches. Foremost, this is one of the eight bazillion "fish out of water" movies that are such a cinematic staple.
Comedic filmmakers simply adore the notion of putting a person in an unfamiliar situation and watching the laughs accumulate as that person struggles to cope with this scenario. Even pseudo-highbrow fare such as Fargo uses a variation on this theme (they go for the person who gets in over their head).
Doc Hollywood also includes virtually every non-offensive cliche about Southerners that could be found. Most of the townspeople of little Grady, South Carolina - the place where city-boy doctor Michael J. Fox ends up stuck - come from the Andy Griffith Show school of content hicks who love their slow-paced countrified lifestyles. Of course, such a plot requires a few Barney Fifes; Doc Hollywood gives us Bridget Fonda, who aspires to bigger things than sleepy ol' Grady.
This film clearly has no political agenda of any sort. Grady's an integrated little burg, but absolutely no allusions to any kind of racial prejudices are made. There's nary a redneck in sight; these folks may be hicks, but they're happy, caring hicks who don't possess any bigoted bones in their hootin' and hollerin' bodies.
I might get myself a little worked up about how absurdly idealized this film's notion of the South and of small-town living is, but I just can't do it in this case. It's Doc Hollywood, for God's sake. This is a movie meant to calm and reassure, not to provoke, and after watching it, I'm just too damned sedate and drowsy to work myself into any sort of lather.
Maybe "drowsy" isn't a fair term, for the movie isn't dull. It's slow but it's sweet, and even a hard-edged cynic like myself falls for some of its romantic persuasions.
As I mentioned at the start of the review, Doc Hollywood simply offers some innocent, non-offensive chuckles in a perfectly perfunctory manner. It's a likable but eminently forgettable little piece that's probably best suited for viewing by you and a significant other when you just want to relax in front of the TV and keep your blood pressure steady.
Doc Hollywood possesses a pretty decent cast, headlined by steady Michael J. Fox. The mid-80s period in which Fox displayed some promise of being a genuine movie star are long gone, but he's settled nicely into a career of competent work such as this.
Woody Harrelson's amusing as a nastier Southern version of his Cheers character, and Bridget Fonda's perfectly adequate as well. Julie Warner satisfies but never scintillates as Fox's bemusedly suspicious love interest. Like the film in which they serve, the cast performs ably but without any real verve, and that's just fine.