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Vincent Ward
Robin Williams, Cuba Gooding Jr., Annabella Sciorra
Writing Credits:
Ron Bass

After he dies in a car crash, a man searches heaven and hell for his beloved wife.

Rated PG-13

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
French DTS 5.1
Portuguese DTS 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 114 min.
Price: $9.98
Release Date: 5/3/2011

• Audio Commentary with Director Vincent Ward
• Alternate Ending
• Behind the Scenes Featurette
• Visual Effects Featurettes
• Trailers


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What Dreams May Come [Blu-Ray] (1998)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (April 16, 2018)

During his early career, Robin Williams made a name for himself as a manic comedian prone to bouts of wild wordplay. As he shifted into acting, though, he eventually turned toward more dramatic fare.

And often sentimental, saccharine fare at that. Films like 1989’s Dead Poets Society and 1997’s Good Will Hunting worked well, but others like 1998’s Patch Adams showed a much more self-consciously mawkish Williams.

That’s the Robin I expected from 1998’s What Dreams May Come, a fable in which Williams plays Chris Nielsen, a man who dies in a car crash. Chris finds himself in heaven, a place that he can make into any kind of environment he desires.

Out of grief, Chris’s wife Annie (Annabella Sciorra) commits suicide, an action that sends her to hell. Against the advice of his “spirit guide” Albert (Cuba Gooding Jr.), Chris risks his eternal fate to attempt to save Annie.

Though I expected the worst from Dreams, I didn’t get it. That said, I didn’t find anything especially memorable either.

Dreams doesn't approach the heights of Good Will Hunting, but it also avoids the depths manifested in Patch Adams. Williams' work also falls somewhere in the middle, as he lacks the power of Hunting but he avoids away from the bathetic excesses of Patch.

Maybe Williams’ work tends to reflect his director. A quality filmmaker like Hunting’s Gus Van Sant brings out his best, while a hack like Patch’s Tom Shadyac lowers him to most-common-denominator territory.

Dreams’ Vincent Ward also appears to stand somewhere in the middle ground. He makes an okay movie - nothing more, nothing less.

Unfortunately, Dreams clearly strives to achieve much loftier goals – it just doesn't get there. That doesn't make the film a Failure, but it simply appears mediocre whereas it aspires to be spectacular.

Without question, the film's first half becomes its most interesting and provocative. As we see how Chris dies and then reacts to his eternal fate, the movie offers an interesting vision of the afterlife and it provides some nicely emotional moments.

I especially like the scene in which Chris meets up with his daughter. The film portrays the scene with a subtlety that makes the scene all the more convincing.

Unfortunately, the movie's second half fares less well – and that’s a surprise because this section should provide the film's high points. After all, we watch Chris brave the depths of hell to redeem his wife - how can something like that come across as dull as it does here?

Perhaps this occurs because the ending never seems in doubt. I won’t provide spoilers, but one can easily anticipate the finale.

At least the film's first half doesn't seem quite so contrived and predictable. That part displays much more of a sense of discovery and also of loss, whereas the excursion into hell simply bores me.

That portion of Dreams also seems surprisingly unemotional. The second half should become tear-jerker nirvana, but it seems strangely clinical and dry.

It’s not that I don't care about the characters - admittedly, I don't, but the result still seems oddly detached. I can't fully explain why the film fails to evoke any sort of true emotional response when it should, but it doesn't, and the movie's dreadfully cutesy ending doesn’t help, either.

All of this leaves Dreams as an erratic experience. Parts of it boast real ambition and impact, but others fall flat, factors that turn it into a mixed bag.

The Disc Grades: Picture C/ Audio B+/ Bonus B-

What Dreams May Come appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Apparently a recycled transfer created for a 2007 HD-DVD release, the image seemed pretty mediocre.

Overall delineation seemed positive, but variations occurred. Though some of these appeared to relate to the movie’s semi-dreamy style, plenty of unexplained softness appeared.

Mild edge haloes became a factor in that realm, as they added to the movie’s occasional fuzziness. I saw no issues with jagged edges or shimmering, and print flaws were minor.

With a broad palette, colors should’ve been a strength – and they occasionally were, as the movie sporadically threw out vivid tones. However, the hues often came across as more than a bit muddy and without the expected vivacity.

Blacks seemed fairly deep, and shadows showed reasonable clarity, though some low-light shots could veer toward the murky side. Dreams could use an update, as this became a bland presentation.

At least the movie’s DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack fared better. It delivered a pretty involving piece, with a good sense of place and interaction.

A smattering of louder scenes – like a car crash – brought out the most dynamic material, but others boasted strong integration as well. The movie’s fantastic settings added solid information all around the spectrum and blended well to create a smooth, compelling soundscape.

Audio quality held up well, as speech remained natural and concise. Music appeared lush and full, too.

Effects added accurate material to the mix, with nice range and punch. This became a surprisingly strong soundtrack.

Among the disc’s extras, we find an audio commentary from director Vincent Ward. He provides a running, screen-specific look at story/characters and the source’s adaptation, cast and performances, sets and locations, music, effects and visual design, and connected topics.

Ward clearly works from prepared notes, a technique that bothers some people. I don’t mind – what an approach like this lacks in spontaneity it gains in detail and introspection.

That said, the amount of dead air that occurs here surprises me given the “scripted” nature of the track. I can understand empty spots better when they come from a more unrehearsed piece, but they make less sense when the speaker planned the material in advance.

Despite these gaps, Ward still offers a pretty good chat. He brings a nice array of insights, so we learn a lot about the film.

An Alternate Ending lasts six minutes, 35 seconds. It offers a minor deviation from the “real” finale, one that gives the movie a somewhat darker finish. It’s still not an especially good conclusion, though I prefer it to the terrible ending in the final release.

Just called Featurette, we get a 15-minute, 17-second piece with notes from Ward, producers Barnet Bain and Stephen Simon, author Richard Matheson, executive producer Erica Huggins, production designer Eugenio Zanetti, visual effects supervisors Nick Brooks and Joel Hynek, art director Joshua Rosen, EFX developer/tech supervisor Pierre Jasmin, and actors Robin Williams, Cuba Gooding Jr., and Annabella Sciorra.

The show looks at story and characters, cast and performances, visual design, sets and effects and locations. Though the first half indulges in fluff, the rest offers pretty good notes about technical areas.

Under Visual Effects, we locate two clips. One involves visual effects supervisor Joel Hynek (2:55) and the other features art director Josh Rosen (1:51).

Both offer basics about the work done for the film. We get a little of this info in the featurette, but Hynek and Rosen add a few new details.

We also get two trailers for Dreams.

Sporadically effective, What Dreams May Come boasts a smattering of worthwhile elements. However, the end result seems too inconsistent to become better than average. The Blu-ray offers very good audio along with a handful of supplements and mediocre visuals. This becomes an erratic Blu-ray for an erratic movie.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3 Stars Number of Votes: 2
0 3:
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