Saturday, October 24, 2015

Zaki's Original Review: What Dreams May Come

First published October 9, 1998
Note: Given the subject matter, obviously this film has taken on an entirely different kind of significance following Robin Williams death. I haven't revisited the film since his passing, and to be honest I'm not really in a hurry to do so.

Robin Williams is a human contradiction.

On the one hand he's the manic comedic presence that has been crowned "The Funniest Man Alive" by no less prestigious a publication than Entertainment Weekly. On the other hand, he gives the kind of dramatic performances that have powered films like Dead Poets Society, Awakenings, and Good Will Hunting (for which he took home a deserved Oscar).

It is this latter Williams that stars in director Vincent Ward's Hollywood debut, What Dreams May Come. Indeed, it is Williams who carries much of the audience through a film that is, although a feast for the eyes, a forced exercise in New Age, feel-good sentimentality.

Williams stars as Chris Nielsen, a crusading doctor who is killed in the line of duty. Upon his death, a guardian angel played by Cuba Gooding Jr. shows Chris his own personal heaven -- full of strident Technicolor vistas and wide open expanses of greenery, visions unimaginable before the age of computer graphics.

Robin Williams' performance is a virtual kaleidoscope of emotion, genuflecting from joy to to anger to sadness and back again. Gooding too is in fine form. Indeed, strong performances are turned in across the board, ranging from Annabella Sciorra, as Nielsen's traumatized wife, to the always-reliable Max Von Sydow, as a heavenly denizen known only as Tracker.

Sadly, the screenplay by Ron Bass (Rain Man) is burdened with such overly soppy melodrama that the stunning achievements in visual effects ultimately ring hollow. C-

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