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Critical Care (1997)

R  |   |  Comedy, Drama  |  31 October 1997 (USA)
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Werner Ernst is a young hospital resident who becomes embroiled in a legal battle between two half-sisters who are fighting over the care of their comatose father. But are they really ... See full summary »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
James Lally ...
Al Waxman ...


Werner Ernst is a young hospital resident who becomes embroiled in a legal battle between two half-sisters who are fighting over the care of their comatose father. But are they really fighting over their father's care, or over his $10 million estate? Meanwhile, Werner must contend with his nutty supervisor, who insists that he only care for patients with full insurance. Can Werner sidestep the hospital's legal team and do what's best for the patient? Written by Martin Lewison <>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


At Memorial Hospital no one ever dies... Until their insurance runs out.


Comedy | Drama

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for language and a scene of sexuality | See all certifications »





Release Date:

31 October 1997 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Cuidados Intensivos  »

Filming Locations:

Box Office


$12,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend:

$43,380 (USA) (31 October 1997)


$141,853 (USA) (14 November 1997)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


[first lines]
Stella: [dropping clipboard] That's six's blood gases. I'm up to oxygen 60%.
Dr. Werner Ernst: Thank you.
See more »


Referenced in After Tiller (2013) See more »


Dry Bones
Performed by the Delta Rhythm Boys
Courtesy of the RCA Records label of BMG Entertainment
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User Reviews

Fun but forgettable.
30 August 2011 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

Directors as renowned and diverse as Sidney Lumet only come along every so often. This great director had such an incredibly long career as a filmmaker before his unfortunate passing earlier this year. His career spanned fifty years and practically every genre you can think of. Only a few times did Lumet tackle comedy, and Critical Care is one of those times. The movie takes place in a hospital where Dr. Werner Ernst (James Spader) becomes helplessly involved in a legal battle between two half-sisters who are fighting over the $10 million inheritance of their comatose father. Werner has to put up with this feud as well as his senile supervisor, Dr. Butz, played by an almost unrecognizable Albert Brooks, who insists that Werner only take care of patients with health insurance. Werner must maneuver around the legality of the hospital in order to do what is right for the patient in this twisty, wacky, nutty, and all around fun flick from the late and great Sidney Lumet.

Critical Care is a fairly straightforward film when you boil it down. There isn't a lot going on here, but what it has to offer is entertaining enough. It's a witty little film with fun characters and great performances. I thoroughly enjoyed James Spader as the film's lead, as he carries the film well, but the film is really lifted up by its supporting cast. Helen Mirren plays the head nurse on Spader's floor, who has a profound outlook on life, even if she has very unorthodox ways of showing it. She isn't in every scene but when she stops by it always seems she is there to give some sort of advice or perspective on the wacky situation the other characters find themselves in. Jeffrey Wright has a small part as a dying patient who sees visions of the devil coming to take his soul. The devil is played by highly unexpected Wallace Shawn. The sub story that develops between Wright and Shawn, as well as Mirren, is a fascinating parallel to the central story of the film.

Kyra Sedgwick and Margo Martindale play the two half-sisters fighting over their father. Sedgwick is a seductive model whose devious ways get Spader into more trouble than he bargained for. Martindale is a deeply religious woman who uses God as her safety net for everything she says about her father and the situation she is in. Her over the top character effectively pokes fun at devout Christians who believe Jesus is the answer to all problems, something I'm always a fan of. But my favorite character of them all is easily the curmudgeonly Dr. Butz, played incredibly well by Albert Brooks in an hysterical role. Dr. Butz is grumpy, unethical, and very technologically challenged, making for some silly yet amusing running jokes in the film. I looked forward to every scene with Brooks as the nutty geezer and was always satisfied with whatever scene he appeared in.

When you get right down to it, Critical Care is a film that you watch, enjoy, then forget. I really liked this flick. It made me laugh and it didn't waste my time or insult my intelligence. It's simple enough and not something to do back flips for. It's a small film, very minimalistic, but makes the most out of what it has. The actors are great and the variety of characters are all fun. I couldn't see myself watching this film again but it was at least an effective use of an hour and forty minutes of my time.

4 of 5 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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