April 23rd, 2007
What a tearjerker! Robin Williams and Annabella Sciorra star as Chris and Annie, married soulmates. But their two kids are killed in a car accident, and later Chris is killed as well. Annie then commits suicide.
Annie lives in a world of romantic art, and Chris finds himself in an afterlife made out of her oil paintings. Guided by various helpers (Cuba Gooding Jr., Max von Sydow, and Rosalind Chao [Keiko from Star Trek]), he storms the gates of hell - where suicides go - to try and bring Annie back.
This is a very unusual movie. You had better like art, and have an interest in traditional notions of heaven and hell, such as Virgil’s and Homer’s, Dante’s Inferno, and Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights. You will also have to be able to take Robin Williams seriously as a leading man and a kind of sniggery, self-deprecating, touchy-feely action hero.
Me, I’m nuts about art, and I find every human attempt to describe the afterlife endlessly fascinating. Williams I can take or leave. But I simply wallowed in this movie’s visuals. Remember that these aren’t static paintings, but interactive movie sets. When Chris squeezes a bright blue flower in his hand, he gets a fistful of oil paint. I have no idea how it’s done, but I find it very convincing.
Look at this heaven! It’s even got the family’s deceased Dalmatian.
How about this one?
Or this. In this movie, everyone has their own heaven… or their own hell, as the case may be.
More than half of the film is about hell, a nasty place that draws heavily on imagery from Dante’s Inferno. Here are a bunch of the damned floating neck-deep in shit. Among them Chris finds not only Annie, but his own father.
I can see how lots of people would hate this movie, with its soppy emotional load and its facile new-agey metaphysics. Like Tron, the whole thing takes place in imaginary computer-generated landscapes. Yeesh!!
Although it’s a bit heavy-handed, I liked it a lot. I did keep trying to imagine what a better actor might have done with the lead role, and after it was over I felt a bit battered, as if I had been subjected to some heavy emotional manipulation. (Separated soul mates! Beautiful loving children! Loyal Dalmatian doggie!) Maybe you can’t expect to get tear-jerked without also feeling a little jerked around.
Anyway, I’m not going to recommend it. You know if you’d like watching something like this or not. If you think you might like it, you’ll probably love it. If you think it might not be your sort of thing, you had better stay away - it isn’t!