Movie Review

What Dreams May Come

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for thematic elements involving death, some disturbing images and language

Reviewed by: W.J. Kimble
CONTRIBUTOR

Very Offensive
Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Teens Adults
Genre:
Romantic Drama
Length:
113 min.

Starring: Robin Williams, Cuba Gooding Jr., Annabella Sciorra, Max von Sydow, Rosalind Chao / Director: Vincent Ward / Released by: Polygram Filmed Entertainment

“There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus…
—Rom 8:1

“And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind…
—Rom 12:2

It is a sad reality, in the church of God today, that men and women alike still feel condemned and unworthy even though they have accepted Christ as their Savior. Paul says this ought not to be. For whom Christ has forgiven there is peace and joy, not condemnation. Many have not allowed God’s Word to transform their minds and renew their spirits. They believe that He has forgiven them; but they hold fast to their self-condemning thoughts and ways. They feel unworthy, unacceptable, guilty and full of shame.

“What Dreams May Come” addresses this issue (in-directly). Annie Nielsen (Annabella Sciorra, “Cop Land”) is living in Hell because she refuses to accept the reality that life is full of hope and love. She has created a hell from which no one can deliver her. She has convinced herself that life isn’t worth living and that her destiny is to live eternally bereft of peace, joy and contentment.

Annie’s nightmare begins after the death of her children, Ian (Josh Paddock) and Marie (Jessica Brooks). Devastated, Annie loses sight of the joys that life can bring; even her husband, Chris (Robin Williams), who has tried everything he can to help her find fulfillment and happiness, fails. Annie’s pain is too great and she remains lost in her own little world of sorrow and grief. To add to her grief, Chris dies in an awful accident; and Annie, who can no longer endure the pain, commits suicide.

Chris, confused and somewhat dismayed, discovers that his children are in Heaven and his beloved Annie is in Hell. Grief-stricken and determined that love conquers all, Chris seeks the aid of a tracker (Max von Sydow, “Jesus” in “The Greatest Story Ever Told”, “The Seventh Seal”, “Flash Gordon”), who has the ability to help Chris descend into the depths of Hell and finds his long-lost wife. Together they trek through the foreboding abyss where they find Annie frightened, alone, and living in a world of her own making. Chris, convinced that they are meant to live together forever, tenderly and lovingly wins her back and together they rekindle the love they once had.

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“What Dreams May Come” sadly propagates the New Age concept that we create our Heaven and our Hell. If, in this life, we paint a tapestry that is dark and dreary, then it will come to be. If we believe that life is sweet and precious, it will be so. We are the painters and we design the outcome. While psychologically this is correct, spiritually speaking, this is an erroneous and terribly deceitful concept. We can do all we can to ensure our place in Heaven, but unless we accept Christ as our Savior, all is in vain. There is no other way! You can be good, honest and live a wholesome life; yet, Hell awaits you unless you repent and receive Christ as your Savior. Furthermore, Christ said, “I go to prepare a place for you…” He is the master builder, not we. While we can choose our destiny, He (alone) is the creator of Heaven and of Hell.

Since, “New Agers” believe in reincarnation, “What Dreams May Come” disseminates this philosophy with great gusto. It unashamedly discusses it throughout the movie. The truth is: there are no second chances. Either you accept Christ as your Savior now, in this lifetime, or find yourself in Hell! There are no other options!

As much as we like the idea of Chris coming to his wife’s rescue and saving her from this awful dilemma, we must realize that it is entirely impossible. The Scripture teaches that those in Heaven cannot go to those who are in Hell. In Luke 16:26 it says, “And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence” (KJV).

“What Dreams May Come” has profanity spoken at the most inappropriate times. There is some brief nudity as well. In one scene, Annie dives into the lake without any clothes on and we see just a brief glimpse of part of her bare bottom. Also, a young girl draws a stream of urine flowing from the genitals (of a classical painting) of a naked man.

While, the story line is hard to follow at times, you can sort out the discrepancies and enjoy the movie. Cuba Gooding Jr. (“Jerry Maguire”), does a splendid job portraying an angel/spirit guide. By the way, there are no such things as spirit guides. Angels are God’s messengers and they are sent to help us; but spirit guides, as the new-agers teach it, are not sent from God. Talk to your pastor about this, if you are confused.

My friends, if you (like Annie) have done something that you feel is unforgivable, remember, Christ knows what you’ve done; and yet, He stands ready to forgive you and enables you to forgive yourself, too! If you haven’t asked Christ to forgive you, won’t you do so now? If you have, won’t you let Christ complete His work in you? You deserve His peace, love and forgiveness. John said, “And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full.” I John 1:4 (KJV). Read the Scriptures. Let those words renew your mind and set you free!

Year of Release—1998

Viewer Comments
While I do agree with the review in that it was doctrinally off, I don’t agree with the many comments about Christians not seeing this movie. Do you realize that so many nonbelievers are going to the theaters to see this? This movie shows how our country is beginning to see spirituallity… all encompassing of all religions. I think that it is good for Christians, who are Biblically sound, to see this movie because it can provide an excellent tool for talking to non-Christians about Chrisianity. I think too often we let ourselves become offended by what the secular culture puts out. We choose to ignore it, and never use it as a witnessing device.
—Lisa, age 21
I read almost all the reviews and I agree with most. This is not a Good movie! I anticipated a much better movie. Not exactly a Christian movie but not New AGE! Once you die you are either in HELL or HEAVEN. This picture paints a false hope that you have a second chance. I was very dissapointed in this movie. Would not recommed it to anyone!!
—Tony West, age 41
I went to see this movie anticipating joyful revelations of the goodness of God and this life on earth. I had no idea that the movie would actually go so far as to create heaven and hell. It was a movie beautifully shot. However, what could have been a meaningful story was ultimately made into a misguided work based upon the pure fantasy and misled understanding of life and death—especially the after life. The very idea that the movie actually went so far as to “paint” a picture of heaven and hell, where “people” in heaven float around in a painted world of resembling a resort in Niagra Falls, or sit around the steps like they are in a college campus or on a museum facility, and that people in hell should hang around the gates of hell decorated by wrecked ships, some fighting like gladiators, other buried up to their heads, etc., is just beyond me. What religion did all this come from I must ask. Certainly not Christianity. The movie was also so depressing and disjointed that I would hardly recommend it to anyone. John Denver and George Burns were a lot more inspiring in “GOD”—One Chrisitian Thumb Definitely Down.
—Thomas Jeing
Personally, I couldn’t wait for this movie to come out. After I saw it, and the new age theme, I wanted my money back. It was so depressing to me. First of all, I felt sorry for people that had close relatives die recently, because of experiencing the grief, and especially for those who may have relatives who committed suicide. But a few days after I saw it, I was saying “Lord, I know no one could go to hell and retreive someone and they made it look like such love to do so, as if it were possible.” Instantly the Lord said to me, “It is not possible, but even if it were so, I said that he that loves anyone more than Me, is not worthy of Me. That man chose hell and the love of his wife, over the gift of eternal life, which is what my blood did for Him.” Then I realized it was a real slap in the face to Jesus. What appeared to be love, was a rejection of heaven over the love of someone. That made me even madder. And the movie portrayed because he chose the love of his wife, he got heaven after all. What a lie. I picked up the New Age theme thru and thru and got intensely aggravated. Especially when his children were someone else. We have lost a small child. I am sure I wouldn’t want to see that child as someone else. I know I will see the child as I knew her. And the ying yang pin on the stewardess was a dead give away. I saw a television program on the making of that movie. Gooding was saying that he hopes it gives someone hope. Hope in what? Without Jesus there is no hope.
—Marlaine Peachey, age 48
Although I agree totally with the whole, accept God and Christ now or be doomed forever, I believe that this movie had its good qualities, too. Maybe you should try watching a movie to enjoy it and not for content alone. There was very little violence and it had a good thought provoking point and brought up many discussion topics, such as, “What is Heaven like?” “How do we accept Christ into our lives and realize that life is about love and joy with Him.” I would take my children to see it if I had any.
—Colleen Stock, age 18
I inadvertently took my two boys in, when another movie was sold out. I didn’t know what it was about or what to expect. Not a good fatherly pattern when we are instructed to train up our children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. I began to get uneasy when Robin Williams died. I knew then that this movie had more of an agenda than painting impressionistic colors on the screen. Finally, when Robin asks the guide, “Where’s God?” and the ambiguous response: “Oh, He’s up there somewhere--” I knew that this movie was not for me or my kids. Heaven and hell are biblical realities. Jesus painted enough of a picture when he said, “it would be better for to lose an eye or limb than for your whole soul to go to hell”; hell is a “place of weeping and gnashing of teeth.” This movie deceptively paints eternal realities with no attention to the author of eternity. It acts as a lethal anesthesia that makes people numb to their true spiritual condition and their need for a Saviour. I walked out of that movie holding both of my boys hands, praying that God would enable me to share adequately the realities of what the Bible paints as heaven and hell and how we need Jesus to redeem us from our own “rose-colored” views of eternity that do not glorify the Creator but magnify and elevation the created.
—Greg Reed, age 34
This film was very powerful. It wasn’t just some “everybody goes to heaven and it’s a niceplace” film. It brought to light the reality of HELL. Not only that there is such a place but the horror and the terror there. The constant pain and anguish throughout eternity. Granted everything wasn’t according to the Bible but the depictions of Heaven and Hell were to me excellent from a secular stand point. I felt I got a look, a glimps at the terrible place that HELL is. I can’t see myself leaving heaven to find anyone in hell but the movie show two things in that #1—Real everlasting, unselfish love #2—the sacrifice that Christ made by coming down from heaven, giving his life and his blood for each of us, going to the grave (and the bible speaks of the grave being hell) an rose again Victorious on the third day.
—Shauna Shouse, age 21
This movie made me feel like I wass having one of those feverish nightmares. Heaven’s qualities appeared as Hell to me. Not only was the spiritual philosophy’s way off, but the movie really made you think that maybe earth, and life here, is better than what awaits us in heaven. This is truly a sad message presented. Do not put yourself through this mentally torturous movie.
—Brian Pedigo, age 18
All I can say is that a lie, no matter how much truth it may contain, is still a lie. So there is presented the theme of forgive yourself. So Chris' willing to sacrifice his heaven to be with Annie can be considered allegorical to Christ’s sacrifice for us—but only loosely (hey, I used to be into science fiction/fantasy; they seem to love the theme of one person journeying to someone else’s darkness to save that one—Star Wars comes to mind as a more obvious example). But it is all still a lie. The real sin of the Garden of Eden was not disobedience, but the belief that “I don’t need God.” This film does a great job at expressing that one! No one needs God at all. Again, I lie is lie is a lie.
—Deanna, age 27
I do not recommend this movie to anyone. The only reason I saw the movie is because I relied on someone elses judgment without first bothering to check Christian Spotlight on the movies. Why would anyone enjoy sitting through a DREAM that has no relevance to either modern day world or to the Christian concept of this daily world, heaven and hell.
—Dave Storhaug, age 54
I agree that this wasn’t a Christian or Godly movie and wouldn’t recommend it based on Scriptural and spiritual reasons. I did enjoy the movie because it did portray the spiritual struggle that many people do face, especially with the value of one’s own life and the transition to death. The ideas of relativism (self-created Heaven and Hell) and reincarnation are part of a New Age atheology that doesn’t acknowledge the standard of an unchanging and faithful God and mistakenly assigns power to humanism based upon selfishness. However, the movie provided a great launching point for a thoughtful family discussion about Christianity and Scripture-based truth versus media images and humanist beliefs that test and challenge our faith.
—Claude, age 46
I appreciate the fact that this story does not accurately present biblical reality. However, isn’t that the point? It is, after all, a “story” and as such, is not supposed to present “3D reality,” but the reality of truth. It’s a sad testimony to the ineffectiveness of the public education system when so many fail to recognize the blatant metaphorical aspects of this admittedly flawed movie. Put simply, the main character named “Christy” (or is it “Christi”?), journeys to hell to save his loved one who is trapped there by her own ignorance and despair. In doing so, he teaches us that, if we would save another from hell, we must be willing to love them to the point of submitting ourselves to their pain. That Christ loved us to the point of submitting himself as guilty of our sin surely cannot be lost in this understanding. In spite of some bad words and some horrendously maudlin moments, the movie does a good job of deconstructing the main character’s weaknesses and illuminating his necessary realizations which leads to a truly redemptive ending. While certainly not a biblical story, it can be said to have a strong evangelical bent. That is, if we can ever learn what the word “allegory” means…
—Douglas A. Sirman
I waited with great anticipation for this movie. In part, because of a Christian novel I read named DOMINION by Randy Alcorn. While the subject matter of this book is multifaceted, there are parts in which Mr. Alcorn describes what heaven might be like. This is a very exciting thing to contemplate. While reading his vivid descriptions, I could not help but wonder how such imagery could be translated to the big screen. Hence, my anticipation. While, at times, visually stunning, “What Dreams May Come” was a disappointment. I could only describe the content as metaphysical-psychotherapy. Let me make it clear that I did not expect this movie to be a treatise on Christian doctrine, nor did I expect it to be such a clear and constant contradiction to the teachings of scripture. The Heaven in this movie is a very humanistic heaven where God is not present and the greatest sin is the sin of not forgiving yourself. God is described as being “somewhere up-there.” Furthermore, this version of heaven is whatever you want it to be. Kind of a personal heaven you create. However, there is one section of heaven where everyone must have a common vision. Like a collective consciousness. You also have the option of being reincarnated. The ideas in this movie are very new age in origin and the filmmakers are very open about their new age beliefs and they hope this will be just one of many such films exploring new age thought. The only remotely Christian concept in this movie is that of Hell being a self-imposed prison. To paraphrase C.S. Lewis “The gates of Hell are locked from the inside.” While I still grapple with the accuracy and ramifications of that statement, it is the only thread of Christian theology I could find in this film. Spirituality is now in vogue in Hollywood. From movies to television programs and talk shows. Unfortunately, it is a spirituality that rejects the gospel. We live in dangerous times and it seems new age philosophy is beginning to permeate our society.
—Joseph W., age 31
This movie disturbed me also! Not only were the [names] of our Father God misused, the messages in the movie were clearly the mark of a “New Age” believer! Although, I guess everyone has their own right to believe in what they want… I am a Christian and I would not recommend this movie to any Christian! It was a nice movie in some points, but it was very anti-Christian in others! Case in point… No one can be rescued from Hell [after death]! It’s not possible, and much less be brought back to heaven…
—Ron, age 23
This was a very disturbing movie. The ideas expressed could not be further from Biblical truth. The main character discovers that heaven is whatever you wish to make it. God is “up there somewhere” and seems to have no power or influence at all! Everyone gets to choose what heaven they want—they can create their own universe. Reincarnation is a given—you can choose to stay in your heaven or go back to earth and try again! Hell is rightly depicted as a frightening and horrible place, although a lot better than I would have thought it would be! Robin Williams in a serious role acts his heart out and is quite convincing. The colors and special effects were excellent as well. There were several misuses of God’s name, and quite a few vulgar words. I would not recommend this movie to anyone. Christians will be upset at the messages being sent, and non-Christians may assume that the messages are true and biblical!
—Kim