What Dreams May Come (1998)

Directed by Vincent Ward
Written by Ron Bass, based on the novel by Richard Matheson
Starring Robin Williams, Cuba Gooding Jr., Annabella Sciorra, Max Von Sydow, Rosalind Chao

My Advice: Matinee.

Chris Nielsen (Williams) is a doctor who fell in love with Annie (Sciorra), got married, had two kids (Jessica Brooks Grant and Josh Paddock), and was intent on living happily ever after.  His two children die in an auto accident, then his own life is taken some years later by an auto accident.  Now all he has to do is wait for Annie to die and come to the afterlife, and they can afterlive happily ever after--or something like that.  Unfortunately, it's not that easy.  (Is it ever?)

So essentially, two strangers meet in a boat collision and set off an adventure that spans dimensions.  Welcome to Richard Matheson territory, and probably the closest you're going to get to it, since the I Am Legend screenplay tangents off into oblivion.  And no, I will never quit harping on that.  There's a lot to like and a lot to make you tilt your head to one side and say "Wha?" in this film, but luckily there's so much material that it doesn't swing into the negative.  What's to like?  Well, luckily, the lobby standee (which takes up three city blocks) is only the tip of the iceberg.  This film is gorgeous.  The afterlife is everything from a painting that hasn't yet dried to a city on a waterfall which looks eerily like something out of Dinotopia.  The basement of hell is a sea of heads.  And to get to the bottom of hell, you go up.  Nice little touches.  As for the bit about paintings, Annie is a painter and when Chris dies he finds himself in his wife's paintings--a marvelous device which makes the connection between the two easier to express, even though they're separated by multiple dimensions.  All the players work well in their roles, though there aren't really any performances that stand out from the rest.  Williams plays Chris pretty much in "pseudo-serious Williams" mode, i.e. he's reined in except for the odd joke.  And it works well here, since he's a good humored man who never knew he would grow up to be, um, Orpheus.  He and Sciorra work well together, showing that their love for each other could indeed descend into hell and survive.  Cuba Gooding plays Albert, Chris' guide to heaven, and Max Von Sydow is a mysterious tracker that the two enlist the services of.  Like I said, no Oscars to float around, but good work from all involved.  There are some things that almost get old, which I can't really say too much about here without divulging something, but it happens three times and you'll know what I mean when you see it.  Anyway, do check it out in a good theater, and you get five extra points if you can pick out the Werner Herzog cameo.

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