Doc Hollywood (1991) Blu-ray Review: A Crash, a Clash, a Fox Office Splash

Michael J. Fox goes country in this early '90s rom-com now available on BD from the Warner Archive Collection.
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Doc Hollywood was exactly the sort of early '90s filmfare I recall going to see every weekend at the local cinema in the small hick town I grew up in. In fact, I actually did see Doc Hollywood when the nearby theater of my teen-aged youth, where nary another soul was in attendance, leading me to (falsely) concur the movie must not have made a big splash at the box office. In reality, the film was something of a box office hit, but due to prolonged exposed to something called "aging", very little of that remained in my memory banks. Or perhaps 1991 me just grew weary of seeing Michael J. Fox movies and quickly forgot about it.

Previously released by the WAC on DVD-R in its original widescreen aspect ratio (early DVDs sported an open matte presentation), the story here stars Michael J. Fox as a thoroughly arrogant medical physician from the big city who decides to abandon that oath thing in lieu of lots of cash. Setting out to become a plastic surgeon in Beverly Hills, Dr. Benjamin Stone (Fox) instead winds up stranded in a small hick town (wait, I think I may have just realized why I forgot about the film the first time around) when he accidentally crashes through the fence of the local magistrate (cult movie icon Roberts Blossom, Deranged) in his vintage Porsche.

Which reminds me of one of my favorite jokes my favorite ex-employer once told me: "What's the difference between a Porsche and a porcupine? The pricks are on the outside of the porcupine." (Thank you, Erik.)

Rather than have the city slicker pay for the fence, the judge sentences Stone to community service at the nearby hospital, where his big city ER experience clashes with the down-to-earth methods the ornery resident physician (Barnard Hughes) practices. Naturally, Stone also runs into a great deal of difficulty communicating with the local yokels, as his antsy attitude and general cockiness is a stark contrast to their laid-back "We'll get to it when we get to it" demeanor. But even the great Dr. Stone starts to second guess what destiny may be laying out before him when he meets a beautiful single mother ambulance driver, as played by Julie Warner.

Oddly enough, the very non PG-13 scene where Ms. Warner emerges from a lake completely nude did not remain in my memory bank, so I am very grateful to the Warner Archive Collection for a new High-Definition look at the film for that reason alone. Ironically, the only thing I really did seem to vividly recall from my theatrical viewing of the film ‒ a quote from The Abyss "delivered" during a roadside baby birthing scene ‒ was nowhere to be found here. But of course, it's entirely possible I have confused that with another movie after all these years (or it just plain did not happen the way I thought I remembered it happening, one or the other).

Woody Harrelson co-stars here as a small town insurance salesman with big dreams. He steals every scene he's in, naturally, and doesn't hesitate to take a (hilarious) jab at his then-Cheers co-star and pal, Ted Danson. But the most sublime performance in Doc Hollywood goes to the late great David Ogden Stiers, who plays the town's surprisingly sage mayor, Nick Nicholson (a name which is all the more amusing if you're a fan of bad Filipino exploitation movies from the '80s like I am). A newbie named Bridget Fonda, Mel Winkler, Frances Sternhagen, and a cameo from his bronzed holiness, George Hamilton, also highlight this fun little flick.

Sporting some fine camera work by Taxi Driver cinematographer Michael Chapman, Doc Hollywood makes its Blu-ray debut from the Warner Archive Collection via an all-new 2K scan from a fresh interpositive. Even if can't seem to actually remember seeing it, I can proudly say it has never looked better than it does here. Framed at 1.78:1 and served with a stellar DTS-HD MA 2.0 soundtrack, this WAC release includes English (SDH) subtitles and the original theatrical trailer in tow. If you have the old Warner Bros. full frame DVD from the late '90s, it's definitely time to toss that thing in the garbage, as it's highly unlikely it'll ever get any better than this.

Recommended.

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