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Thursday, 7 July 2016

Retro Movie Review: What Dreams May Come (1998) #RobinWilliams

What Dreams May Come
Cast: Robin Williams, Cuba Gooding Jr., Annabella Sciorra, Max Von Sydow
Genre: Fantasy Drama
Estimated Worldwide Gross: $71,485,043

Plot: After Chris Nielsen (Robin Williams) dies in a car accident, he is guided through the afterlife by his spirit guide, Albert (Cuba Gooding Jr.). His new world is beautiful & can be whatever Chris imagines. Even his children are there. But, when his wife, Annie (Annabella Sciorra) commits suicide & is sent to hell, Chris ignores Albert's warnings & journeys there to save her. Upon arrival, Chris finds that rescuing Annie will be more difficult than he'd imagined 

*This review may contain spoilers* 

'There Is Hell & There Is A Movie About The Afterlife Marred By Bizarre, Trifling Nonsense'

I am literately going to say this out loud: I didn't want to re-watch What Dreams May Come, in fact, I was going to refrain from ever mentioning this movie, but for review purposes I had to sit through this one again, one more time, to constantly remind myself as to why I dislike it so much. 

So here it goes: the plot, in a nutshell, sees a married man named Chris killed in a car accident and ends up in heaven, or what-not with his son played by Cuba Gooding Jr (?). With his wife about to kill herself and sent straight to hell, Chris has to go and rescue her before it's too late. I lost count of the number of suicide-related story-lines in Robin Williams's movies, but this must be the 4th or 5th. & yes we all know Robin died through suicide in real life, and thus, I hate it when suicide is mentioned in his movies, as it brings back bad memories. But moving on... 

After the first 30 mins, I literately gave up, I couldn't stomach any more of this torrid & soulless experience, the theme and narrative were impossible for me to stick by. It made me not care about the characters or their fate. 

This movie was beyond terrible and yet I still loved Robin Williams for all of his other character roles that weren't as depressing and jarring as this one as Chris. Though Robin has appeared in numerous movies that people haven't heard of, I for one did hear about this film and read the synopsis and plot for it. Yes, I read the positive comments from gushing viewers saying how wonderful What Dreams May Come is and was. Personally, it sounded bad on paper - like a late 1990's version of Ghost - but I knew I had to see it for myself how truly bad it was. And my word, it was awful. It was so morbidly depressing - yet bizarre and trifling, it felt like I was experiencing a bad hallucination. There ought to be a disclaimer added to this film: 'may cause unwanted side effects'. Children die, adults die and Chris's wife dies from suicide, Chris dies in a car crash. Sad but also depressing, and not very enlightening either. 

This is not a movie one can't sit through in its entirety if you feel really down, depressed or had a really bad day: one or more viewings of What Dreams May Come will make you feel 10 times worse. Back in 1997-1998, around the time this film came out I had personal issues with college, and things became so bad I ended up being depressed. After one viewing of What Dreams May Come in its entirety a couple of years ago, at the end of it, it left me in such a dour and depressive state, I had to shut myself from the rest of society and help clear my head of these depressive and sad thoughts going on in my head. Rewatching it, I realise nothing that is supposed to come across as being emotional and making me want to resonate with the characters works; quite frankly I felt nothing positive towards it or them. It was just utterly depressing. 

Clearly, the effect this film had on me was so negative & mind-numbingly awful, it was the equivalent of being locked up in a prison cell with this film played non-stop for hours on a loop and not being able to switch it off. That's what it felt like for me. 

I get what the director was trying to achieve, but the truth is, you can't cover something up and masquerade it as something else and try and fool people that all is well, because it isn't. 

The characters were under-developed, not very interesting and of whom I couldn't relate to and are dis-likeable. Robin's performance as Chris was squirmish I felt like throwing up and I know he has delivered much better performances than that. They bared no redeemable qualities, whatsoever. The film was so poorly- written and conceived, & slow paced I realise that writing a film about death is not a very uplifting experience at times, but it seems that the visuals & special effects solely existed to compensate for the movie's poor excuse of a script & lack of substance. Oh did I forget to mention it was depressing to boot as well?   

And Robin Williams, before he appeared in this film, he'd starred in happier, more go-lucky and uplifting & positive fare than What Dreams May Come such as Mrs Doubtfire, Hook, Dead Poets Society, The Birdcage, Good Morning , Vietnam, Aladdin as the Genie, so what happened? Robin Williams began the early 1990s with great promise such as Awakenings, Hook, The Fisher King, as well as success with Aladdin and Mrs Doubtfire - only to succumb to the mid/late 1990s with Being Human & New Age experimental crapola, Bicentennial Man What Dreams May Come. & yet again, it typifies that as hugely talented & wonderful Robin Williams is, was & always will be, this is yet another example of how sometimes he made such trifling decisions when it comes to the types of roles he undertakes. & before you start raging at me, I am literately speaking as a fan. He makes me laugh and smile, as well as cry. I didn't enjoy every film he starred in, but I also enjoyed some of his films that the critics hated. Yet I don't really get why he chose to do a project such as this one. Me personally, as good as it was that he took on different types of roles in his career, I just wished he hadn't accepted the part in this film. As much as I love Robin and most of his movies, I wished he'd make better film choices. This film doesn't scream Robin Williams one bit: he was completely miscast as Chris, I couldn't empathise with his character, whatsoever. & it is also sadly another Robin Williams film where it exploits his fragile mental state, & that I find sad. I felt that any other dramatic actor should've played that role but him. But at least I choose to remember by his other and vastly superior roles and movies, rather than this piece of dreck. 

The fact that this film has a higher rating than Hook pretty much validates my decision to further discredit IMDb star user ratings. The only things I liked about this film were the visuals and the colours. That's about it. 

& yet, unfortunately, it's movies such as this horrid entry, in addition to Toys, Being Human, Bicentennial Man and most of his post 2000-offerings, which without a question of a doubt, represented the worst moments of his career spanning 4 decades. I consider What Dreams May Come to have been the beginning of his downfall in his movie career during the end of the 1990s & onwards into the 2000s. 

I may not be a fan of Ghost with Demi Moore, Patrick Swayze & Whoopi Goldberg, but at least that film had some watchable moments. In stark contrast, What Dreams May Come was & is the less inferior version of Ghost - only more depressing. This was beyond an insufferable viewing experience, let alone a tedium performance & one I have no intention of revisiting, ever again. 

Do not be fooled - this so-called 'dream' is really the stuff of nightmares.


Pros +

- Scenery and visually colourful and vibrant at times 

- Nice special effects 

Cons -

- Bad, utterly soulless and shallow movie all-round 

- Is morbidly depressing as well, hell 

- Dull and slow-paced 

- I wished Robin Williams hadn't starred in this movie - this is just not 'him'

- Grating & jarring script with some poor dialogue 

- Acting wasn't so great, especially given the script 

Final Verdict:

With the right material, role and movie, Robin Williams is a brilliant & towering performer who can do it all. I love most of his movies from The Survivors, Good Morning, Vietnam, Hook, The Fisher King, Awakenings even silly fare like Fathers' Day, The Birdcage as well as the sitcom, Mork & Mindy. Yet as proven with this film, & several others, this has been simply not the case. A dire & jarring script sandwiched between a depressing and bleak tone and a fittingly sombre experience all-round, despite some of the uplifting & colourful visuals presented, What Dreams May Come is a miserly, insufferable and depressing effort. 

The emotional toll throughout this journey was just dreary, soulless and to an extent, it made me feel unwell.

The one rating I've given is purely for the visuals alone, as everything else about this film, is a let-down. 

Unless you are into schmaltzy and depressing movies, this is most definitely not worth your time. Let alone one of Robin's best efforts. 


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