My memory is fuzzy around the period after my initial diagnosis in 1995. I’m not sure if I saw the movie The Dream Team then or if I had seen it earlier. I do remember that when I first saw it, I thought it was hilarious. Composed of a cast with Christopher Lloyd, Peter Boyle, and Michael Keaton as psychiatric patients running rampant in New York City, what’s not to love?
After viewing it in 2013, I was left to wonder, “What drugs was I taking to have enjoyed it so much?” My answer is, “Probably not enough.”
I won’t spoil the movie any more than it does itself. I will simply detail my three major problems with the film.
First, the underlying message is that if people with psychosis just stop taking their medication and face extremely stressful challenges, they naturally come to their senses and are healed. I realize in 1989, there were still a lot of psychiatric patients overprescribed massive amounts of Thorazine, but a new generation of psycho-tropics was emerging and, in many states, long-term institutional care was no longer an option. The film takes place outside New York City, and I’m pretty sure New York was either closing or had closed its state psychiatric hospitals by then. The movie tries to be One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and fails miserably.
Second, the movie laughs at (rather than with) psychotics. The characters are one-dimensional and, apart from one family scene (with Christopher Lloyd’s character and his daughter) that is supposed to be touching, it simply mocks characteristics of stereotypical psychotics rather than reveals humorous foibles they find in life.
Third, it’s just not that funny. The funny bits could easily fit in a trailer. In fact, I can only remember one – when Peter Boyle’s character (who thinks he’s Jesus Christ) tells a man on a gurney to “Rise and walk.” The man gets up and falls. Okay, now that I think of it, that isn’t even funny.
Perhaps the movie was a propaganda film for states closing psychiatric hospitals in the vain hope that community-based care would be more humane. If this is the case, I suppose it succeeds on a certain perverse level. Who wouldn’t want to live next door to the Savior of humankind? Especially when he is off his meds.