Take one part "Ghost." Throw in healthy dollops of "Somewhere in Time" and Dante's "Inferno," and the concoction you'll get is something approximating "What Dreams May Come."
Not to say that this disappointing romantic fantasy is derivative, but it seems more like a hodge-podge assembly of scenes from other movies than a cohesive feature film. What's particularly unfortunate is that it has gorgeous visuals and an appealing cast.
But "What Dreams May Come" is so lacking a real emotional center, and it takes itself so seriously, that it quickly becomes tiresome. And the sluggish pacing, strange character revelations and a lack of romantic chemistry between the two leads certainly don't help.
Robin Williams stars as Chris "Christy" Nielsen, a caring physician killed while trying to help a car-crash victim. With help from a spirit guide, Albert (Cuba Gooding Jr.), Christy makes the transition to the afterlife a heaven that, in his mind at least, looks like a particularly colorful (or garish) oil painting.
Although he should be happy there he's been reunited with his children, who also died tragically Christy feels incomplete without his beloved wife, Annie (Annabella Sciorra), and is desperate to reunite with her.
Complicating matters, however, is the fact that the bereaved Annie has committed suicide and has literally gone to hell. But with help from a spiritual tracker (Max Von Sydow), Christy vows to rescue her from eternal damnation.
As adapted by screenwriter Ron Bass ("My Best Friend's Wedding"), the source material becomes an incoherent mishmash of religious theologies and unclear character motivations. Director Vincent Ward ("Map of the Human Heart") compounds the problem by telling the story at too leisurely a pace it feels like it takes two hours just to get to the meat of the tale.
And frankly, Williams is so subdued that it's hard to really care about his character, despite the tragedies heaped upon him. Sciorra doesn't fare all that well, either, thanks to Bass's superficial scripting.
In fact, the supporting cast (Gooding, Von Sydow and Rosalind Chao) is much more interesting. But they don't get nearly enough to do, except react to the principals and the stunning, computer-generated, scenery, which is the film's strongest asset.
"What Dreams May Come" is rated PG-13 for profane language (including use of the PG-13 rated profanity), violent tussling and a brief swordfight, brief female nudity and a couple of vulgar sight gags.