Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (August 2, 2016)
A moderate hit for Michael J. Fox post-Back to the Future, 1991’s Doc Hollywood introduces us to Ben Stone (Fox). A young doctor with dreams of medical glory and fortune, he plans to go to Beverly Hills and become a well-paid plastic surgeon.
Fate places an obstacle in his way, though, when Ben gets lost on the road and winds up in small-town Grady, South Carolina. Ben accidentally destroys the judge’s fence, so he receives a sentence to do community service in the local hospital.
Initially Ben resists the charms of small-town living, but he slowly starts to warm up to Grady and its inhabitants – especially when he finds himself smitten by Lou (Julie Warner), the town’s ambulance driver. We follow Ben’s relationships and how these may influence his future plans.
Doc Hollywood provides the definition of a gently/mildly amusing film that 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 works well enough, especially given that embraces so many cliches. Foremost, this offers one of the eight bazillion "fish out of water" movies that exist as such a cinematic staple.
Comedic filmmakers 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. It’s a common motif, and not one that this effort changes in any notable way.
Doc Hollywood also includes virtually every non-offensive cliché about Southerners that exists. Most of the townspeople of little Grady come from the Andy Griffith Show school of amiable hicks who love their slow-paced countrified lifestyles.
This film clearly boasts no political agenda of any sort. Grady's an integrated little burg, but no allusions to any kind of racial prejudices occur. 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 downhome 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 seems, 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.
Doc Hollywood possesses a pretty decent cast, headlined by steady Michael J. Fox. Woody Harrelson's amusing as a smarmier Southern version of his Cheers persona, 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.
Doc Hollywood 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.