What Dreams May Come (1998) / Fantasy-Drama
MPAA Rated: PG-13 for thematic elements involving death, some disturbing images and language
Running Time: 113 min.
Cast: Robin Williams, Annabella Sciorra, Cuba Gooding Jr., Max Von Sydow
Director: Vincent Ward
Screenplay: Ronald Bass (based on the novel by Richard Matheson)
Review published September 20, 1999
Dr. Chris Nielson (Williams, Good Will Hunting) and his wife Annie (Sciorra, Mr. Jealousy) lose their children in a fatal accident. While trying to rebuild their lives, Dr. Nielson also bites it when trying to help others who are also in an accident. He is transported to Heaven and finds it to be an unbelievable place where he meets old friends and even his deceased children. He longs for the day when he and his wife will be reunited for eternity, but tragedy strikes when her despair causes her to take her own life.
The bad news for the good doctor is that suicides are sent to Hell instead of Heaven. This doesn't sit well for Dr. Nielson, who makes it his destiny to find his wife and join her once again come what may.
The movie plays out like a cross between "Dante's Inferno" and the computer game "Myst". Absolutely gorgeous set design and special effects make the film watchable, and the subject matter is fascinating in and of itself. Unfortunately, the film is severely miscast save Cuba Gooding Jr. (As Good as it Gets, Jerry Maguire), who's excellent, with Williams and Sciorra delivering little in the chemistry department.
The film is compelling for the first half but descends slowly downhill after his wife's suicide ultimately culminating in an unsatisfying and unhappy "happy" ending that would have been better left undone (There was another ending shot for the film that was even more unsatisfying which thankfully they did not use). Fascinating yet disappointing at the same time, and while it tries to instill hopefulness about the afterlife, it only succeeds in leaving a sour and depressing taste to it all.
©1999 Vince Leo