The first time Sean Connery wore a ponytail was in the silly 1974 sci-fi epic Zardoz, in which he played the last real man left in a futuristic society run by Amazons. A bad tonsorial omen. Now, in this critical and box office disappointment, he’s a reclusive researcher who has found the cure for cancer in the Amazon itself. The catch is that he mysteriously cannot reproduce his original findings. When Lorraine Bracco arrives as his research assistant, the film becomes every Harlequin Romance reader’s updated fantasy: Travel to the bush and fall in love with a guy man enough to wear a ponytail-a doctor, yet.
This lush-looking jungle tale loses sorely in the foliage-blurring translation to video. But its biggest flaw is the formulaic script by Tom Schulman, who won a Best Original Screenplay Oscar for 1989’s Dead Poets Society. The movie’s one concession to eccentricity is having Connery tee off golf balls in the middle of the forest, which will not exactly leave viewers helpless with mirth. And the heavies who bulldoze their way through the jungle are right out of amateur Victorian theatricals.
If you lie back on the couch with a snack and allow the mind a vacation, Medicine Man can be an unintentional riot. Bracco’s honking Bronx accent, like Judy Holliday’s old brassy foghorn, is a scream, turning this typically Hollywood, knee-jerk response to the destruction of the rain forest into Born Yesterday with lab equipment instead of gin rummy cards. With friends like Hollywood, the Amazon has its hands full of enemies.