Making the Grades
Chris Nielsen (Robin Williams) and his wife Annie (Annabella Sciorra) are madly in love and have two children they adore. Life couldn't be better, until their children are killed in a car accident. Chris deals with the tragedy, but Annie has an emotional breakdown. Only Chris and her love of painting pull her through. When tragedy strikes again, and Chris is killed, Annie's grief drives her to take her own life. Chris, now in "heaven", is determined to save her from hell and bring her back to the utopia he lives in.
Typical of other heaven movies, this one makes up its own rules. Suicides go to a special hell, and Chris's quest to save Annie is considered impossible. But what's really impossible is to make a heaven and hell movie while trying to ignore any notions of religious ideals or a supreme creator. Shortly after dying, Chris asks a heavenly tour guide, "Where's God in all this?" He's told that God is somewhere looking down on us. Strange... that's the same vague answer we use on Earth...
In an effort to please the many religious personalities in the theater seats, a little bit of everything has been stirred into a melting pot producing a dream-like heaven experience and a nightmare-like hell. The highly computerized animated effects are a feast for the eyes, but provide little food for thought regarding the meaning of life.
Whether this film is a dream or nightmare will depend on your personal circumstance and religious background. Chris's willingness to forgive and sacrifice anything for Annie, along with his love of their children provides the shining moments in this movie. But the many emotional scenes of death and dark depictions of hell, and use of profanities, make me strongly suggest parents preview What Dreams May Come before watching with their teens. If you do choose to share it with your older children, it may provide an opportunity to discuss your own family's feelings about death. No matter what, have a big box of tissues on hand for this one.