Critical condition, starring Richard Pryor, serves up a mostly unremarkable performance in a cliche story surrounded by sets, action and a musical score that suffer dramatically from low-budget-itis. The character portrayed by Pryor is, essentially, the same character he has played in many of his films... a slightly-cowardly, slightly buffoonish loser who, through his own bad luck, ends up in situations where he is in trouble way over his head - in this case, as a patient in a hospital psychiatric ward trying to avoid jail time. The trouble occurs when he attemtps to make his escape during a blackout and, through a bizarre series of events, ends up serving in the hospital emergency room after being mistaken for a physician. To say that the story is full of holes would be monstrous understatement. The writing and characterizations are very simplistic, and every once in a while you get the impression Pryor may have felt the same way, as some of his dialog is delivered almost mechanically. There are moments when you might have to repress a giggle, for example at the thought of stringing ambulance headlights around the hospital for light, or the explosive repercussions of shutting down a science experiment. However the majority of these laughs center around moments of extreme unbelievability in the story rather than on snappy dialog cleverly delivered by an actor best known as a pioneer of cutting-edge humor. This will likely leave the viewer feeling that something was missing despite a few laughs.
The best part of this film, by far, was getting to see all the fresh new faces (in 1987) that would one day become well-known actors and comedians, including Bob Saget, Joe Mantegna and... my goodness, was that a *very* young Wesley Snipes in a 2-line role as an unnamed ambulance driver? While this doesn’t make up for an otherwise blah film, it did, at times, have me gleefully wondering what famous face would next make its appearance.
There are no special features included on this disc, which is a bit of a disappointment considering Pryor’s contribution to comedy, his rather colorful career, and the fact that several well-known actors made what had to be some of their earliest film appearances in this movie. Did no one have anything to say about the chance to work with a man who is generally considered to be a comedic icon? DVD producers need to learn that a dvd should not simply be about re-presenting a movie that we may or may not have caught in theatrical release... it’s an opportunity to bring a film closer to home, both physically and through special features, for the fans who care enough to want to own their own little slice of entertainment history.