Although I watched this movie years ago and liked it, I never really understood it until watching it again recently. Although the movie starts off on a dark note, it manages to carry a pretty upbeat (and often playful) tone for much of the movie. Robin Williams plays his role perfectly, ranging from the emotional states of a loving father to embracing his childlike wonder and joy as he explores the new world of his afterlife. Speaking of the afterlife, Williams’ guide is Cuba Gooding Jr. – who also perfectly embodies the role and helps really bring to life many of the deeper messages in this movie.
Speaking of which, there are a lot of very subtle yet powerful spiritual messages in this movie about living in the present, being connected to others, what is possible, and how our imaginations and realities might be more linked than we realize (To name a few). Some of those messages can be easily missed in the dialogue, especially when the relevance of a single word such as feel can change the entire context of a conversation, so make sure you are paying attention closely – especially when Cuba Gooding Jr. is talking.
This movie is not without its dark points, however. With so much hardship in the plot, the movie would be incomplete without including not just the highs of human experience, but also the lows. Some scenes may be disturbing to young children, so you may want to watch it on your own before considering whether or not to share it with younger children.
Without giving too much of the plot away, what I will say is that this is a movie with more than meets the eye.
Oh, and if you are watching it on DVD – definitely be sure to check out the alternate ending in the special features. In my opinion, it is much better than the final ending they used in the theatrical version. The alternate ending is both more powerful, and also much more aligned with the themes and content in the movie.
If I had one word to describe the alternate ending, it would be riveting. The alternate ending isn’t your typical ‘Hollywood’ ending though, which is probably why it wasn’t used in the final version.