Vincent Ward directs Robin Williams in one of his more dramatic roles. This is not a comedy. This is a depressing movie about death and the afterlife. It’s about the lengths a guy will go through to be reunited with his soul mate. It’s based on a book that I never read and probably never will because I’ve seen the movie.
Robin Williams plays Dr. Chris Nielsen, and when he was young, he met an artist named Annie (Annabella Sciorra). They fell in love and had a couple of kids and life was good. Then life wasn’t so good when their kids died in a car accident. Annie goes a little crazy with grief and tries to kill herself, but Chris pulls her through. He is her strength, her rock. And then he dies too, and Annie is all alone.
Chris is dead, but he’s not gone. A part of him still exists and he stays around for a while. A blurry Cuba Gooding, Jr. appears and acts as his guide to the afterlife. They watch Annie grieving at his funeral and at his gravesite. He has to move on and so he goes to his own personal Heaven.
You create your own Heaven and Chris goes into his wife’s paintings. His old Dalmatian is there and so is Cuba Gooding, Jr. and he’s no longer blurry. Cuba identifies himself as Albert Lewis, Chris’s old mentor. He teaches Chris the basics of Heaven, what you can and can’t do, free your mind, all that hoopla. Chris and Albert see a tree that wasn’t in the painting before. Annie just painted it, and they are able to reach each other through her art. Because they are soul mates. And that’s how it works.
Chris mentions that he hasn’t seen his kids. Albert says he will see them when he wants to see them. Even though he saw his dog right away. I guess we know his priorities. Chris continues touring Heaven and meets a hot Asian chick. She ends up being his daughter. I saw this movie in theaters and I was really confused at this point, because I thought he had two sons that died in a car accident. I didn’t know that the younger kid was a girl. Girls should have long hair. I thought he just had an effeminate son. Anyway, the hot Asian chick is his daughter. His daughter assumed the form of a sexy Asian because her dad said that Asians were sexy. So she wanted to look attractive for her daddy. That’s kinda gross. And I guess that even though Chris loves Annie he still has a case of yellow fever.
So after this awkward father-daughter reunion, Albert tells Chris that Annie committed suicide and is now in Hell. She was suffering and she ended her suffering and ended up in Hell. When the dog was suffering and they ended his suffering, it ended up in Heaven. Why did she end up down there and the dog end up in Heaven? Did they murder the dog? Is that the difference?
Anyway, Chris decides he wants to go to Hell to rescue Annie. Albert takes him to a Tracker (Max von Sydow). They all go to Hell, and Chris remembers telling his son that he wouldn’t walk through Hell with anyone other than him. And he realizes that Albert is actually his son. So the first two people he meets in the afterlife were actually his kids and they were lying to his face. Everyone lies in Heaven. Maybe his dog is really his old cat.
So Albert/Actually-his-son stays behind and Chris and the Tracker go through Hell to find Annie. And the Tracker reveals that he is actually the real Albert Lewis, the same guy who his son was pretending to be. Small world or lazy writing?
Chris finds Annie trapped in her own personal Hell. She doesn’t recognize him. He chooses to stay in Hell with her and they end up back in Heaven. Because they are soul mates and that’s how it works. They are reunited in Heaven with their two kids and it seems like the perfect ending. But Chris and Annie decide to get reincarnated and get sent back to Earth to start a new life together. The two kids get to stay in Heaven and not live full lives, while their parents get to go back and start a new family and forget about their two kids they already had. That’s a terrible ending. It’s child neglect from beyond the grave.
This is not a comedy. Just because you see Robin Williams on the cover doesn’t mean it’s a good time. This movie is sad. It tries to be uplifting but it fails. There are great depictions of Heaven and Hell, and the plot seems original at first, but it becomes mundane. It’s a decent movie, but I wouldn’t say it is essential viewing.
Critically Rated at 11/17