RoboDoc (2009)

(On Cable TV, May 2014) “Amateurish” is a good way to describe much of RoboDoc, from the thin lazy plotting to the on-the-nose dialogues to the overacting to the lame editing. Everyone mugs for laughs in the film, and it’s not even close to be subtle. While it’s closer to C-grade comedy than even the dumbest theatrical releases, RoboDoc at least understands that it’s supposed to be a crude blunt chuckle-fest. As a result, it feels a bit funnier than many more respectable comedies: For all of the film’s casual sexism and gratuitous racism, it’s surprisingly good natured. (There’s a worrying lobotomy-revenge gag late in the film, but it sets up a pretty good political joke not even thirty seconds later.) It would be easy to believe that much of the film’s built-in humanism comes from the two practicing MDs who wrote the script, in which a robotic doctor actually ends up being a paragon of good medicine and more efficient health-care. Insurance companies and ambulance-chasing lawyers are mercilessly mocked, and the end of the film suggests a better world in the making… which really isn’t the kind of science-fictional utopian thinking we expect in confronting a film presented by National Lampoon. The film’s comedy may not fly high, but it’s dense enough to offer a chuckle every few moments. William Haze isn’t too bad as the titular robodoc, but the only two actors who somehow manage to float above the rest are experienced sitcom actors Alan Thicke as a patrician doctor, and David Faustino as a nebbish engineer. Much of the rest is forgettable. Still, I’ve been bored, disgusted or put off by at least three other far bigger-budgeted films in the past week alone, and my tolerance for silly low-budget films grows at every failed Hollywood monstrosity. So while I’m not going to pretend that RoboDoc is worth more than a passing look in the absence of anything better, I’m not going to pretend that it’s completely worthless either. Fans of low-grade comedies can already recognize if they’re likely to enjoy it.

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