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Movie Review

"For in that sleep of death
What dreams may come
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil
Must give us pause."

-Hamlet Act III, Scene I

In recent years, Hollywood has gotten in touch with its "spiritual side." But as countless films about angels have proven, big-screen theology doesn't always mirror biblical fact. The latest off-kilter kaleidoscope of loosely connected metaphysical hypotheses appears in What Dreams May Come (PG-13). In addition to promoting reincarnation, this egocentric journey through heaven and hell denies the sovereignty of God in favor of imagination, karma and pop psychology.

The film stars Robin Williams and Annabella Sciorra as Chris and Annie Nielsen, soulmates who endure a string of family tragedies. Their two adolescent children die in a car wreck. Chris meets a similar fate four years later. Emotionally ravaged and wracked with guilt, Annie commits suicide, earning her an automatic ticket to hell. Dark stuff. The point of all this calamity is to speculate about what surreal eternity lies beyond death's door, and to see if Chris' love for Annie can reverse her fate. In the process, Dreams paints a visually attractive, yet spiritually bankrupt rendering of the afterlife.

Barnet Bain, the film's co-producer, told CCM, "I read the Bible and I'm in a committed, ongoing relationship with the divine and feel that God is present in my life. It's my primary pursuit. The movie is an expression of that." What the movie expresses is a belief that heaven and hell are nothing more than extensions of our mortal dreams and nightmares. Individuals decide where they'll spend eternity and what they'll find there. There's no judgment. And no Jesus. In fact, apart from one passing reference to God, the only uses of His name are profane . . . in heaven no less! Consider these theological nuggets of fool's gold straight from the mouths of characters in the film:

-- "Good people end up in hell because they can't forgive themselves."

-- "We can go back and be reborn, but only if we choose to."

-- "Thought is real; physical is the illusion."

-- "There are no judges or crimes here--it's just the way things work."

Whether sincere theorizing or flights of fancy, these and other unorthodox philosophies romanticized in the movie fly in the face of biblical truth. And they're likely to confuse young viewers. A 1998 survey from the University of Chicago's National Opinion Research Center learned that 81 percent of Americans believe in life after death, a 25-year high. But do they view heaven as eternity with God or as some New Age Disneyland? Teens need a biblical peek at the afterlife--a place prepared for prepared people--not the folly of What Dreams May Come.

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Robin Williams, Cuba Gooding Jr., Annabella Sciorra, Max Von Sydow, Rosalind Chao


Vincent Ward ( )


PolyGram Films



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Bob Smithouser

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