The Clinic (2004) / Drama
aka Animal Clinic
MPAA Rated: Not rated, but probably suited for all audiences
Running Time: 90 min.
Cast: Jonathan Scarfe, Mike Farrell, Ione Skye, Sebastian Spence, Bruce Davison, Reamonn Joshee, Crystal Wu
Director: Neill Fearnley
Screenplay: Charles Martin Smith
Review published January 10, 2004
Actor Charles Martin Smith, perhaps best known to the public at large as Toad from American Graffiti, writes and executive produces this ambitious film about the pressures of one veterinary clinic in a rural town. Although not really a great film, if taken as the made-for-TV material that it is, it would make a solid pilot to a television series, should they ever choose to make it. For a small budget Canadian film, it sports a solid cast of familiar character actors, including Mike Farrell ("MASH"), Ione Skye (Say Anything...), and Bruce Davison (X-Men).
Jonathan Scarfe (Slap Shot 2) is the star of the movie, playing the new vet on the scene, Andrew McDonald, fresh out of school and wanting to start off his career, travelling thousands of miles, leaving home and girlfriend behind. He's hired on by Dr. Cyrus Gachet (Farrell), who takes him in on a trial basis to see if he can cut the mustard at his small veterinary clinic. Try as he might, Andrew can't seem to find the right footing, getting into a snit with another vet, having personal accidents, and missing the girlfriend's loving arms. Meanwhile, pressures mount for the clinic, as inspectors have been threatening to shut down the place for long overdue repairs, while still dealing with life-and-death situations of not only the animals, but for the vets themselves.
The Clinic is a likeable movie, if not a particularly memorable one. It does have the novelty of showing the daily routine of a veterinary clinic, and plays like a feature-length episode of "E.R." for pets, which makes for some entertaining viewing. It sports a very pleasant cast, and for most of the way, it's an easygoing affair, with some interesting bits of drama here and there. There's also competent work done by longtime television director Fearnley, who works well with Smith's quaint style.
Although it should be liked by animal lovers, especially for those familiar with the pet care industry, ultimately, The Clinic just falls short of being worthwhile for most people for two reasons. First and foremost, for all of its charm, it's just too featherweight to leave a lasting impression, with the biggest controversy coming over whether a young kitten's injuries are accidental or if it is the victim of abuse by the owner. While it may be heartbreaking in its own way, as far as medical dramas go, it's not too substantial. Secondly, there is a tendency for Smith to overreach in his modest material, setting up confrontations and moments of human valor that seem out of place in a movie that showcases a small clinic. Having worked in a veterinary clinic myself, the most exciting moments came when having to give an ornery cat a flea dip, and I certainly never witnessed any explosions or had occasion to save people from raging fires, like they do at Gachet's place. I also didn't care for the personal drama where McDonald has to choose between his girlfriend and his potential new job, because it should have been a cinchy no-brainer decision, and he chooses very, very poorly.
While I wasn't impressed by The Clinic as a whole, if it did become a television series, it entertained me just enough for me to watch another episode or two, mostly to see how they tie up the unresolved loose ends.
©2004 Vince Leo