Film review #362
Director: Stephen Maddocks
SYNOPSIS: A hospital is being constantly plagued by lawsuits from a greedy ambulance-chasing attorney. With another doctor quitting and the hospital fast running out of money, Dr. Roskin arranges for a new doctor to be sent, but doesn’t expect R.I.P. Healthcare to send a robot doctor, who is seemingly able to carry out medical duties without ever making a mistake. This causes problems for Jake Gorman, the attorney who is making money off all the malpractice cases, and working with Dr. Callaby, another doctor at the hospital who is in league with Gorman, the two try to find a way to stop “RoboDoc” before their money-making scheme is ruined…
THOUGHTS/ANALYSIS: RoboDoc is a 2008 sci-fi comedy film that somewhat parodies the RoboCop films, as the name implies. The film starts out introducing Jake Gorman, an ambulance chasing attorney who has made himself rich by suing doctors for malpractice. His constant lawsuits are pushing the North Mercy (or “No Mercy”) hospital to its limits, with doctors continually quitting and having their lives ruined. The opening of the film consists of a variety of gags and satirical looks at the U.S. healthcare system: from the ambulance-chasing attorneys, the lack of insurance for patients, and the ambulance driver adorning a racesuit, there’s a decent amount of content to get into. RoboDoc was written by two M.D.’s and so obviously they have the necessary experience to write about the setting of the film. I think there was definite potential in the outset to make this film offer a more thorough critique of the healthcare system through a comedic lens, but the film takes it in a completely different route and goes for just another raunchy comedy like so many we’ve seen before. Even in this direction, it needs to push some boundaries in order to be effective, but again it just doesn’t do enough to make it stand out.
After another such incident of a doctor quitting over a lawsuit, Dr. Roskin, the chief of medicine arranges the R.I.P. Healthcare company (who fund the hospital) to send another doctor, which they do, in the form of MD-63, a robotic humanoid doctor who is appointed to the hospital. While Dr. Roskin, a technophile, is reluctant to let a robot do a doctor’s job, he is slowly convinced when he sees that “RoboDoc”, as he is nicknamed, is able to complete any form of care or surgery without mistakes, and thus making him impossible to get sued. This is the core plot of the film, with RoboDoc having to earn the trust of his fellow staff, as well as learn about compassion and the elements of care that go beyond his programming. These are all story elements that have been done to death, and so there are no real surprises here. The character of RoboDoc is also essentially a carbon copy of Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation; right down to the look and voice, which is a recognisable character, but again fails to bring any originality to the RoboDoc role, and doesn’t even satirise it. The actor playing RoboDoc does do a good Data impression though. The character of Attorney Jake Gorman also is well played, and his over-dramatic performances bring some life to the scenes he is in. The rest of the cast are pretty forgettable (apart from the few scenes with the character played by Michael Wimslow from Police Academy), and don’t have much significance in the story. There are the starts of some sub-plots initiated by these characters, but they never really go anywhere, making their roles rather muddled.
RoboDoc is not a high budget film, and has to make do with a fairly limited range of effects. These effects are not particularly convincing, and combined with the uninspiring camera work and wooden acting from some of the actors, you will struggle to take it seriously. There are some positives as I have mentioned, and there are some more obscure references and satirical swipes that are more rewarding than the cheap innuendo jokes. The comedy on the whole does stick mostly to that juvenile, raunchy humour but offers nothing particularly new or memorable. Nevertheless, the film does garner a decent amount of laughs, and so as a comedy film it can’t be said to be a complete failure. RoboDoc is an uninspiring mess for the most part, but there are a few good performances and jokes that make this entertaining enough to watch if you’re not paying too much attention to some of the weaker characters and scattered story that often branches into meaningless dead ends.