The first few scenes in "Doc Hollywood" are a caution. There is every reason to believe that we are in Stephen King country or are back in the same town Demi Moore and Chevy Chase ran into in "Nothing But Trouble."
In a very short time, however, after only a few scenes, the comedy is on safe ground.
"Doc Hollywood" stars Michael J. Fox. It wants to be a charmer and is. It's a very loose film, a scene-by-scene movie that leaves you feeling glad you've seen it.
There is nothing world-shattering about it, but it does provide a very good time. It's in the tradition of the Frank Capra movies. If Capra were still doing films, he'd probably be doing movies like this.
Fox plays a surgeon who does his residency at a hospital in Washington, D.C., then decides he would like to work in Hollywood, with a plastic surgeon. It sounds glamorous and financially rewarding. Hollywood, after all, may be the face-lift capital of the world, So Dr. Benjamin Stone (Fox) hops into his car and takes off.
Somewhere in South Carolina, he goes off the road. His car, a Porsche Speedster, is a mess, and the doc has to wait until it is repaired. He is also required to do 36 hours of community service for having destroyed a picket fence.
There is another doctor in town, but he's not as young as he was and isn't able to service the community. Dr. Stone doesn't want to get lost in this place, but there is this girl, and there are the townspeople, who are all rather nice and helpful to each other. It may be the only place of its kind in the United States.
The surgeon meets the girl when she is bathing nude. It's a rather gratuitous bit of exposure, but this is an easy enough hurdle to surmount.
The girl, played by Julie Warner, is an independent sort. When she isn't studying law, she is driving an ambulance. She falls in love with the doctor, but that doesn't mean she will go with him to California.
When Dr. Stone finally arrives in Los Angeles, he discovers that his superior may be more interested in golf than he is in lyposuction.
Bridget Fonda is one of the residents of Grady, that small Southern town. Woody Harrelson, Frances Sternhagen, Donald Ogden Stiers and Barnard Hughes are others, and there is a pig who doesn't get any billing but makes a very nice pet. George Hamilton is the Hollywood surgeon who wears a pigtail.
All these people are nice company. You'll like them, and you'll probably like the movie, so long as you don't expect big things of it. There are no terminators, there are no drug barons, and there are no problem children. All we have here is an assortment of quaint citizens with nary a nasty among them.
"Doc Hollywood" opens here today. Capra would probably approve.
** A physician, hoping to work in Los Angeles, loses his way and finds himself stranded in a small town in South Carolina.
CAST: Michael J. Fox, Julie Warner, Donald Ogden Stiers, Frances Sternhagen, Bridget Fonda, Woody Harrelson, George Hamilton, Barnard Hughes
DIRECTOR: Michael Caton-Jones
RATING: PG-13 (language, nudity)
RUNNING TIME: 103 minutes