Con man Kevin Lennihan framed in a jewel smuggling tries for an insanity plea and is sent to a hospital for review where he is confused for another doctor and takes over the hospital when a major storm hits.
Kevin Lennihan is a con artist. But this time he's framed and comes before a judge. By claiming insanity, he hopes to get off the hook. He manages to end up in a hospital on Governor's Island, off the coast of New York for a mental examination. That night, a storm breaks out over the area, and the electricity to the hospital is broken. In the ensuing chaos that follows, Kevin is taken for a doctor, Eddie Slattery. Suddenly, he is in charge of a whole hospital! Written by
THE RIDE OF THE VALKYRIES
from "DIE WALKURE"
Written by Richard Wagner
Performed by the Vienna Philharmonic
Conducted by Sir Georg Solti
Courtesy of London Records
A Division of PolyGram Classics, Inc. See more »
You know you're in trouble when the title says it all...
Never trust the ratings in here, some say from time to time, cause they never reveal what lies beneath some underrated precious jewels and also some overrated classics. "Critical Condition", however, deserves the current negative evaluation, not much because it's a terrible picture, cause it's not in fact. The problem is that the movie is so misguided despite its effective (and few) positive scenes that you suspect the talented people involved in its making were way over their heads in thinking they're creating good comedy. Richard Pryor alone, only in stand-up routines, and we all know it that his films worked better if he had a partner - not even if a brief companion being Pryor and Gene Wilder one of the most interesting duos of comedy. But the supporting cast assembled makes this a little enjoyable, though not going too far.
I believe the setting given here would benefit more a thriller/horror movie than a comedy but if the writers think they can find real humor in it, well, it's their opinion. Pryor is a scam lawyer who is sent to jail after being framed in a suspected deal with some mobsters. Knowing that he's about to get killed in prison, he acts like an insane person during trial much to everyone's belief and sent to treatment on a mental facility for 21 days in order to establish if his crazy or not. But during a huge storm that cuts the power and contacts of the place, he manages to get out of the psychiatric warden and ends up getting confused as an important medical doctor whose arriving was long waited there. Now it's up to this fake doctor to help the staff of this chaotic hospital filled with regular patients (who comes up with this stuff, a mental hospital glued next to a regular facility?), managing his best and worst in a place with almost no electricity, with its disappearing administrator and with a dangerous criminal (Joe Dallesandro) on the loose, and just like him also trying to get away from there.
Half an hour goes by without any laughs, and almost with no understanding of what those loud characters are saying for the most part. Only when the absurd starts to take place is that movie progresses, gets a little involving yet eternally confusing and lacking in substance. But already too late. And what Michael Apted was doing with this comedy? He's trustworthy directing drama and action flicks; his direction here feels very uninspired, more like "in it for the money" (and I bet no one got paid all that much). I'm not recommending "Critical Condition" but if you wanna see it for yourself there's room for enjoyment in scenes like the "Apocalypse Now" parody with Pryor putting a helicopter inside of the hospital to generate energy in the building; the great presence of Rachel Ticotin as the substitute administrator, a fine dramatic effort in showing how important decision must be during troubled conditions; Bob Dishy finally getting a noteworthy and extended role as the doctor who puts pressure on everybody including Pryor. Randall 'Tex' Cobb, Joe Mantegna, Bob Saget, Sylvia Miles Jon Polito and a few others have fine roles, the best they could get.
Well, final diagnosis: not worthy of much attention, suffers from a severe case of lack of great humor, and it's almost a waste of time. The medication for it can be found in all other Pryor's movies. This one is just wrong. 4/10
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