We gave it a B
It’s easy to see why Gross Anatomy was DOA in theaters. The awful title all but screams Porky’s Goes to Med School. And, despite the fact that Hollywood coughs up two or three young-doctor films every decade, the genre hasn’t changed since Clark Gable starred in 1934’s Men in White. It’s a formula and audiences know it. The makers of Gross Anatomy know it too. The refreshing result is a young-doctor movie with characters that are flaky and engaging, even when they’re doing things you’ve seen many times before.
The story follows five first-year med students through the routine doubts, romances, pranks, and crises. But director Thom Eberhardt (Night of the Comet) has accepted the formula’s limitations and concentrates instead on the story’s smart, offbeat tangents.
An equally smart cast helps: Daphne Zuniga (The Sure Thing) as the driven student with a heart of mush; Zakes Mokae (A Dry White Season) as a clear-eyed anatomy instructor; and especially Christine Lahti, who makes the tough-but-inspiring-teacher cliché believable. Matthew Modine brings warmth and depth to the star role of Joe Slovak, a cynical, pain-in-the-ass student who’s bright enough to coast without cramming. In a way, that’s typecasting. Modine is a fine actor who often coasts through a part himself. Birdy and Orphans show what he can do when challenged, but in most films he settles for being affable. His performance here is like the film: graceful, unhurried, and well thought out. Here’s hoping Gross Anatomy has a healthy afterlife on video. B