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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 33.96%
Average: 7.55%
Pretty Bad: 10.06%
Total Crap: 10.69%

9 reviews, 105 user ratings

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What Dreams May Come
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by Rob Gonsalves

"Marvelous eye candy; flatulent script."
4 stars

'What Dreams May Come' split me right down the middle: Visually, it's one of the great movies of its decade; dramatically, it's rather blurry and baffling.

The movie keeps toying with existential dread and then swooping up and away, sprinkling little life lessons that generally boil down to "Don't give up." What Dreams May Come may be helpful for the grief-stricken or suicidal, or those who hook into its comforting Deep Thoughts about why we're here, but the rest of us may sit and stare at it in honest bewilderment. Fortunately, the movie gives us a great many things to stare at.

First, the literal translation of what's on the screen. Christy Nielsen (Robin Williams) meets Annie Collins (Annabella Sciorra) when their boats bump together on a lake; they become instant soulmates, marry, and have a son and daughter. Both kids die in a car accident, and Christy himself is killed four years later; he winds up in a painterly Heaven (inspired by his wife's artwork), where he meets a glowing angel named Albert (Cuba Gooding Jr). As the Radiator Lady sang in Eraserhead, "In Heaven, everything is fine" -- except that Christy misses Annie and the kids. (You may also recall the Talking Heads lyric "Heaven is a place where nothing ever happens.") Then Annie, alone back on Earth and overwhelmed by the cruel nothingness of it all, takes her own life and ends up in Hell. So Christy has to go rescue her.

A dead man going to Hell and back for the woman he loves: this sounds like the blueprint for a terrific epic fantasy-romance. But What Dreams May Come, adapted by scripter Ron Bass from a Richard Matheson book, isn't interested in the quest so much as the lessons learned along the way. I haven't read Matheson's book, so I don't know whom to blame for the film's soft-headed approach. A director like Terry Gilliam could have done justice to the romantic quest while keeping the pieties to a minimum (imagine his visions of Heaven and Hell). The director here is Vincent Ward, the enraptured fantasist who made The Navigator and Map of the Human Heart. He may not have a lick of tough-mindedness, but he's got an eye.

Ward and cinematographer Eduardo Serra seem to be working with an infinite palette of colors, especially in Heaven, which looks like an explosion in a paint factory. Even the scenes on Earth are suffused with sharp colors that have an almost psychedelic clarity: Christy's blue shirt is the bluest blue you've ever seen. (It'll make a great DVD rental.) If Ward stumbles anywhere, it's in the later scenes in Hell, which feel familiar and borderline schlocky: the rusty industrial landscape, the moaning damned with their heads sticking out of the ground -- it's all like the worst Nine Inch Nails video never made. Mostly, though, the visuals kept me rapt and attentive, even coming close to misting up a couple of times.

It's all very tasteful and subdued; nothing in the movie pushes your "Give me a break" button -- except the tale itself. In Hell, Christy finds Annie in a tangled version of their earthly house; we're to understand that she's lost in her own grief and that Christy must pull her out of herself. Here, and in many other scenes, you can intellectualize what's going on without ever really feeling it, and I wasn't at all convinced by Christy's strategy or its outcome.

After all the brooding set-up and lush visuals, What Dreams May Come turns out to be yet another security-blanket fable for people afraid of death. It says that where there is life, there is hope, and all that. It flirts with the abyss, with real depths of despair, and then trivializes them with some sympathy-card stuff about love and endurance.

What a wondrous piece of eye candy this is, though. Rent the DVD, kill the sound, and put on a classical CD (my pick: Gorecki's "Symphony No. 3"), and you've got a winner.

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originally posted: 01/11/07 07:30:42
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User Comments

9/07/21 Claudine Jones Look closely, you'll see me as a "ghoul" in Hell. Actually swimming pool in Alameda. 4 stars
8/06/21 brian 13 years later, I disagree with JM Synth 100% 5 stars
6/07/17 Ed Riddick I found it moving. Sets a very high bar and almost makes it. 4 stars
8/31/11 courtlove beautiful film with straight forward plot. what would you do for love. 5 stars
9/14/10 david too sentimental, and plot doesn't make any sense 2 stars
5/22/10 Eddie Not a movie for those who can´t stand the weight of their cynism and never felt real love 4 stars
10/06/09 hu100 sucks this movie was total crap! why would anyone watch this?!?!?!!? 1 stars
10/25/08 brian I agree with JM Synth 100% 2 stars
10/09/08 ninis to all the ppl that hated this movie they know nothing this movie has many lit. references 5 stars
3/27/08 JM Synth Visuallly impressive but sappy and completely unengaging 2 stars
3/03/08 ladavies thought provoking, beautiful , emotional ...maybe not for everyone 4 stars
9/14/07 DC i actually watched this only for werner herzog's cameo. not worth it by a long shot. sorry 1 stars
7/17/07 fools♫gold Very nicely metaphorical; I wish there was more. Well, onto another film... 4 stars
6/12/07 Danielle Ophelia Check your cynicism and let the movie have the floor. 4 stars
3/13/07 lupe with love anything is possible!! 5 stars
12/04/06 Emily This movie is beautiful, I loved it 5 stars
11/22/06 Rai I loved it, one of the first movies i really cried on 5 stars
8/14/06 Patrick Casanova Despite some theological disagreements, I found this movie to be beautiful and entertaining 5 stars
12/21/05 Indrid Cold Hope the afterlife is more logical than this, but if it looks half this nice, I'd be happy. 4 stars
11/21/05 Paul I didn't know what to expect, but this movie amazed me! 4 stars
10/09/05 Rhonabel Jalipa The movie is so wonderful and awesome! 5 stars
6/24/05 love Robin Williams was not right for this movie and the end has no logical meaning!! 3 stars
4/24/05 Quigley its philosophy is totally twisted, but it has incredible colorful digital landscapes. 4 stars
10/27/04 Erika I think this movie is beautifully made and thought provoking. 4 stars
7/24/04 Christina fabulous 5 stars
7/23/04 ~*Alicia*~ i loved this was very emotional...and great perfomances by all the charaters 5 stars
5/16/04 Lily Schneider It was a kick-ass movie; very emotional with a lingering sense of hope about death. 5 stars
5/16/04 Daveman Horribley overblown and pretentious. Williams is superb as ever though. 2 stars
2/19/04 R.W. Welch Pretty slow in heaven but it picks up nicely when they get to hell. Awesome visuals. 4 stars
2/13/04 Bryand Gabriel Rasco A film with deeper meaning, beautiful if you will take a closer look. 4 stars
1/24/04 Lorelei This film is my cathdreal of adoration! Beautiful. 5 stars
11/05/03 Sharel VonSeggern I really enjoyed this film. It was brilliant, and inspiring. It really made you think! 5 stars
10/11/03 tintle one of the greatest movies ever 5 stars
5/14/03 vicki lee romanitc,curious,kind if film,loved it! 5 stars
4/25/03 mr. Pink Awful tripe! Even the visuals started to irritate me immensely after 5 minutes. 1 stars
12/29/02 MissBroadway2001 One of my favorites, brilliant performances, brilliant visuals, a must see for movie fans! 5 stars
10/14/02 Charles Tatum Kinda spooky, kinda sad 4 stars
10/07/02 TheOthersFan Only movie I've ever seen that actually pulled the heartstrings. 5 stars
9/23/02 .Choadushouse. An absolutely beautiful film. It's so warm. Don't usually like Robin Williams, but DO here. 5 stars
6/10/02 Jermaine Couldn't be better 5 stars
3/02/02 Adrienne Stowe Life force?!? Has big tobacco got movies over the barrel or what? 1 stars
1/10/02 danny as someone who lost my soulmate, it gave me great peace 5 stars
12/21/01 Corky It was the best movie I have ever seen and my love life has changed because of it! 5 stars
12/11/01 Rey Mendoza Jr This movie is so cool and I have it on VHS and on DVD 5 stars
11/29/01 Amy Fabulous...could watch it twice a week. 5 stars
9/17/01 korakot jai beautiful pics 4 stars
9/13/01 Zoe Fitzgibbon I thought this movie was really stupid the first time i saw it but it was good the 2nd time 4 stars
8/19/01 Dr. Thompson Trite maudlin new age view of heaven. Dante did it better. 1 stars
8/07/01 Mr. Hat The premise was real nice.....but damn..... 2 stars
7/08/01 officer 412/l the worst film I ve ever seen. some one pass the bucket 1 stars
6/05/01 I love movies beautiful crap 1 stars
2/19/01 INCUBATOR When you die, it doesn`t mean your love dies too 5 stars
6/16/00 Bender Overlong, but pretty good, and stunning effects 4 stars
5/12/00 Girl9 Beautiful and unique with a touching message, but certainly not for everyone. 5 stars
3/17/00 Dr Fardook very pretty to look at but shite as a movie 2 stars
2/17/00 Kyle Broflovski So it's sappy, syrupy, and sentimental. Why is that always a BAD thing, hmmmm???? 4 stars
1/18/00 Foxdvd I would rather spend the day picking up soap for Richard Simons 1 stars
12/19/99 Jennifer Hunter Beautiful effects, very emotional, a great experience. 5 stars
12/08/99 dog i think it sucked so bad,it made gandhi look good 1 stars
11/06/99 hum very pretty but not a good movie 3 stars
9/16/99 mr. pink my idea of hell is seeing this movie again 1 stars
7/08/99 Ann Wonderful-really makes you think about what happens when loved ones pass on 5 stars
6/25/99 David Keech Sappy? I would argue honest. Great effects & great script = great movie. 5 stars
4/07/99 unstrung without the SE's:decent film?with the SE's... HOLY SH1T IN YOUR PANTS BATMAN!!!!!! 5 stars
3/20/99 davebo good sets & cg, dialogue needed help and story got too weird 4 stars
3/11/99 Bats Innovative visuals; wish the tone was closer to the book 3 stars
3/09/99 Go Swans This film was so sugary, horrible, soppy, sentimental, manipulative, poxy, sad, confusing. 1 stars
1/16/99 Melissa Visually pleasing. Robin and Cuba were excellent. See it at a theater for the full effect. 4 stars
1/12/99 Miss Scarlett Wow, one of the best movies of the year, very innovative 5 stars
1/10/99 twisted barbie great until the ending...why leave utopia? the book was fabulous, though 4 stars
12/29/98 thEnd Take your serious girlfriend to this one, guaranteed hit! 5 stars
12/22/98 Jim Niles dreary--unwatchable 2 stars
12/19/98 PirateGirl Dogmatic objections aside, visually stunning but NEEDED character development. Felt long. 4 stars
12/12/98 Dave Parrish Slow to start, rushed to end, but that middle part rocked! 4 stars
12/10/98 George Morgan Somehow I can't picture Heaven as a wet oil painting canvas that we slide on. 2 stars
11/28/98 ShadowStar© You wanna know what my dream was watching this movie? THE ROLLING OF THE END CREDITS!!! 1 stars
11/19/98 Scott von Berg brilliant visually. 4 stars
11/07/98 Negative Creep Happiness is your family being dead? But at least you're together for eternity! FUCK THAT! 3 stars
11/07/98 Jayson Lauden Robin Williams delivers another brilliant performance. If you think otherwise you're dumb. 5 stars
11/04/98 Jamoch Stunning visuals, no spark between Williams and Sciorra 4 stars
10/31/98 Specter ok, not great. 3 stars
10/27/98 MR HOLLYWOOD !! inspirational direction!,tear-jrker of a plot,Robin/Sciorra MAKE this movie,Cuba's boring!. 4 stars
10/26/98 me saw it with spork-girl and i agree 5 stars
10/23/98 Christ Monkey Decent. Visually stunning, and touching, but a cop-out ending. 4 stars
10/23/98 Josee Best movie ever! Oscar for Williams! 5 stars
10/20/98 Milhouse Faqw Crap. Boring, predictable and lame. One of the worst of the year. 1 stars
10/20/98 Craig Friggin A! It rocked! 5 stars
10/19/98 Aint-It-Cool It is a romantic adventure epic unlike anything we've ever seen. 5 stars
10/18/98 Kwyjibo It should have been better. Maybe a little too directed at romantics. 4 stars
10/17/98 Mr Showbiz Dripping with visual aplomb and sugar-coated mysticism, Ward’s film is a staunch romance. 4 stars
10/13/98 Sixteen" of swingin' meat and a bucket of balls I laughed. I cried. I loved it. Robin may get himself a new oscar. Cuba was good too. 5 stars
10/13/98 grunter Like the Sex Pistols . . . Pretty, but vacant. Lush imagery, braid-dead plot. 2 stars
10/07/98 Korny Island Loved it. People who have no romance will hate it. Date movie in the extreme. 5 stars
10/05/98 cheryl_ann it reminded me of an acid flashback combined with dante's inferno. 3 stars
10/04/98 Joe thats not the afterlife damnit, but some nice visuals! 2 stars
10/04/98 Jason Very thought provoking 4 stars
10/04/98 Chris I really enjoyed watching it. 5 stars
10/01/98 Simple Pimple Phenomonal. Fucking incredible. 5 stars
10/01/98 {{{OZ}}} Great movie. If you're cynical about romance, don't bother, but otherwise this movie rules. 5 stars
9/14/98 Chip Taylor Stick to comedy, Robin. 1 stars
8/27/98 Mister Whoopee Robin Williams, superb effects and the question of death. Will hit a chord with many. 4 stars
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  02-Oct-1998 (PG-13)
  DVD: 04-Mar-2003



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