DIRECTED BY: Vincent Ward
PLOT: A pediatrician dies and goes to paradise, but he’s willing to throw away an eternity of
bliss to find his wife, who’s trapped in a far less pleasant afterlife.
WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: Majestic visuals make Dreams worth a gander for most, but due to high levels of sugary sentiment it’s contraindicated for diabetic cinephiles. While it has some unusual moments (and a cool eyeblink cameo from weird icon Werner Herzog as a tormented head), its weirdness isn’t much higher than any other Hollywood-approved fantasy.
COMMENTS: The romantic afterlife fantasy What Dreams May Come flopped at the box office, but won a well-deserved Oscar for Best Visual Effects. When pediatrician Chris (Robin Williams) dies and goes to heaven, the afterlife manifests as one of his wife’s oil paintings. Williams (joined by spiritual guide Cuba Gooding Jr.) wanders around inside an incredibly detailed landscape that looks like it was literally created out of paint; when his shoe slips on the mud, it exposes an undercoat of iridescent green and orange. It’s a miraculous mise-en-scène that, by itself, makes the movie worth catching. Other visuals pack quite a punch as well, especially when the action moves from a prismatic heaven to a gray hell: we watch a horde of swimming dead menacing Chris’s boat, and see him carefully transverse a field where the faces of the damned grow like heads of lettuce. Unfortunately, the other aspects of the production can’t keep up to the standard set by the visuals, and a vein of sappiness undermines the whole endeavor. What Dreams was made during the period when Robin Williams was still transitioning from a wacky motormouthed comedian to a “serious” dramatic actor, and he received some praise for this performance at the time; looking back, however, it seems too restrained, as if he’s trying to keep his massive personality in check. Gooding Jr. tries to compensate for Williams’ surprising lack of energy, and goes over the top a couple of times (I half expected him to shout out, “show me the salvation!”). Annabella Sciorra comes off best, but she needed a Continue reading CAPSULE: WHAT DREAMS MAY COME (1998)