Books on Film: Doc Hollywood

I've seen Doc Hollywood about 15 times, because I've seen every Michael J. Fox movie at least that many times, but this is one of his best. And if you're a fan of Disney movies, then you're probably already familiar with the plot. They've been widely accused of totally ripping it off. 

The Book

Doc Hollywood became a movie in 1991, but before that it was a book called What? Dead Again? about Dr. Benjamin Stone (Fox). He's going from Miami to LA to complete his residency. But before he can make it across the country, Dr. Stone breaks down in a rural area of Alabama. 

That's when things get interesting. The town really needs a doctor, and Stone is compelled to help. What unfolds is a funny and touching story that pokes fun at small town life while still paying homage to it. Shulman is well-qualified to write the story because he is an actual doctor. What? Dead Again? was his second novel, and he's still writing today. But this is his only story (so far) that became a Michael J. Fox movie, and that's why it makes my list.

The Movie

Fox starred as Ben Stone when Michael J. Fox was the hottest thing in Hollywood, and he leads the star-packed cast. You'll see Woody Harrelson and Bridget Fonda among the people living in the small town where he's landed. The film shows us Stone in his normal day-to-day training -- him and his fancy Porsche. He's on his way to become a rich, successful plastic surgeon in LA when he crashes on an Alabama back road, though some of the blame can be placed on a wayward cow. Stone's sentence is community service: work as a doctor at the hospital.

Pretty soon, Stone meets love interest Lou and several other colorful characters in the town. But will the small town charms be enough to keep him from the bright lights of Beverly Hills?

What Got Adapted?

Some of the plot is changed around and added to for the sake of the film. Stone's starting point is altered and the romance is more heavy-handed on film. But many of the funny treatment scenes are taken right from the book, and the original comedic flavor of the story certainly isn't lost. The book is very polarizing among fans of the movie: they either love it, or hate it. Watch the film before you read the book, and make up your mind. 

The Controversy

There is another aspect to What? Dead Again? -- it's sort of been adapted more than once. Disney has been accused of copying the plot, almost exactly, for their movie Cars. In this, the title character crashes in a rural town and is forced to work in the area before he is allowed to leave. He also meets a girl in the town and falls in love, and must choose between big city glamor or small town life. The similarities here are pretty clear.

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  1. Thanks for the tweet on Doc Hollywood. I know the author of that story. I just finished a screenplay adaptation (Puberty Happens) on another book of his (Puberty Prevention Club). His name is Dr. Neil Shulman.

  2. Yes he's a fascinating guy. Thanks so much for your comment. I'm glad you liked the post!