Critical Condition | Chicago Reader

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Richard Pryor is a con man who gets to play doctor when an electrical blackout hits a New York-area hospital. The jokes have all been on IV since Hippocrates (or at least the Carry On series), but what's really critical here is the condition of Pryor's comedy persona. The old social bite is missing from the humor, and the timorous sexuality—with puppy-dog frustration substituting for unruly aggression—turns Pryor into a harmless androgyne along the lines of Eddie Cantor (though without even the small subversiveness of Cantor's gay closet teasing). The film is obviously a hurry-up job, and occasional infusions of stylishness from director Michael Apted (Firstborn, Coal Miner's Daughter) aren't enough to camouflage the overall impoverishment. Some interesting ensemble work from a capable supporting cast—Ruben Blades, Rachel Ticotin, Joe Mantegna, Bob Dishy, Sylvia Miles, Joe Dallesandro—but ultimately it all goes to waste.

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