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What Dreams May Come

What Dreams May Come tells the story of a saintly pediatrician (Robin Williams) who dies in a car accident and ascends to his own private heaven, only to be tormented by the subsequent suicide of his unbalanced art-dealer wife (Annabella Sciorra). Determined never to give up, Williams vows to travel to the depths of hell to be reunited with his beloved wife. An insanely ambitious metaphysical tearjerker—directed by Vincent Ward (Map Of The Human Heart) in the tradition of Somewhere In Time, another film adapted from a Richard Matheson novel—What Dreams May Come is the sort of heart-on-its-sleeve weepie about which it's easy to be cynical. It's easy to be cynical, for example, about the script's hackneyed blend of new-age psychobabble and Zig Ziglar-like self-affirmations. It's easy to be cynical about an underworld filled with creatures who look like discarded members of Marilyn Manson and a paradise that looks like a pastiche of the work of every Renaissance painter who ever ended up with a print on a dorm-room wall. It's easy to be cynical about the film's crashingly anti-climactic ending and its gag-inducingly cutesy final scene. But despite its numerous missteps and miscalculations, What Dreams May Come is often a powerful, affecting piece of filmmaking. Visually stunning, even if the source material from which it draws isn't exactly obscure, Dreams is, like Titanic, the sort of swooningly romantic epic that somehow sidesteps the intellect in favor of the purely emotional. And if it's ultimately something of a failure, it's still a noble failure, and a frequently fascinating one. In an age in which films frequently promise little and deliver even less, What Dreams May Come fails not because it promises too little, but because, like The Truman Show, it promises so much that any ending, even a strong one, is bound to be a bit of a letdown.


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