Movie Review — Cirque du Soleil: Worlds Away 3D
About a half hour into Cirque du Soleil: Worlds Away 3D my wife leaned over to me and blurted out, “Are you as bored with this as I am?”
Frankly, I wasn’t. By that point, my boredom had turned into annoyance.
Things went downhill from there.
Another scene or two passed and our mutual annoyance metastasized even further — into unconditional surrender. We had enough. But the cinematic Rubicon was passed.
In the final scenes towards the end of an overly-long 85-minute test of patience, I found myself talking back at the movie screen mocking the performers, oblivious to those within earshot around me. I didn’t mean to cause a disturbance, but no one else seemed to care. Needless to say, we departed the theater in a fit of rage and disappointment.
This movie should never have been made. It’s a testament to the old edict that if you’re going to do something, then do it right — or don’t attempt it at all.
How in the name of James Cameron — who produced this monumental mess (this one sinks faster than Titanic) — do you screw up something as spectacular as Cirque du Soleil? Who would have thought trivializing death-defying stunts was possible? It’s baffling to imagine a production blessed with many of the world’s most gifted performers, with such an impressive array of set designs and costumes, and some of the most innovative music ever recorded could induce a mass slumber.
How bad was it? For those who have visited the Las Vegas airport, recall the jumbo screen inside the baggage claim area. Think of the 45-second video clips from one show after another. Imagine that highlight reel repeated over and over and over again and then compiled into an full-length motion picture. Indeed, the comparison of waiting for bags at an airport might be appropriate here, except there’s actual suspense in waiting for one’s luggage. There’s no such drama in this montage of monotony.
I’ve seen five Cirque du Soleil live performances, so far. Two were extraordinary (“O” and “Cavalia”), one was excellent (“Mystere”), one was average (“Love”) and one was awful (“Ka”). My appreciation for each show was largely a matter of taste. Each and every Cirque du Soleil product that I’ve sampled — be it live shows or music CDs — has been a first-rate production.
Then, we get this clunker.
No doubt, this was a film with enormous potential. Bringing the very best of the Cirque du Soleil global franchise to the big screen for the first time — the audience’s visual experience enhanced by 3D — was a thrilling prospect. Add the opportunity to witness some rare behind the scenes footage and truly astonishing acrobatics from a variety of different angles, and this wasn’t simply like getting the best seats in the house. It was like being a part of the show.
Cirque du Soleil: Worlds Away 3D is a reel of disappointment from start to finish. Take the story, for instance. Oh wait, there isn’t one. The possibilities of an Alice in Wonderland-Through the Looking-Glass themed narrative were obvious here. Too bad the film’s creators opted instead to sew the performances together with the amateur skills you might expect from a YouTube video. There’s also virtually no dialogue — which doesn’t help much to retain our attention. Then again, what would the performer say?
“Oh look! There’s another skinny girl up in the sky spinning on a rope!”
The film essentially takes the high points of what you’d see in the exact same shows on the Las Vegas Strip and transposes them onscreen, with no attempt at contextualizing or connecting these performances to anything that might resemble a plot. A few scenes are interesting and even mesmerizing (when performed live — forget this treatment), but blended together in cinema, it’s like visiting the Bellagio buffet, tossing a little bit of everything into a giant mixing bowl, and then trying to digest the contents. We may savor green bean casserole, pad thai, creamy horseradish, and cherry cheesecake on their own. But mixed together into one giant serving wouldn’t be very appetizing, would it? This is what happens when you mix the fire-fight scene from “Ka,” with a magical interlude from “Believe,” with one of the worst Beatles songs ever recorded, “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite.” What you get is cinematic slop.
If you try to please everyone, you please no one. That’s what the film makers attempted to do here, conjoining irreverent themes with no connection. Moreover, some of the dullest interludes from the Cirque du Soleil catalog somehow made the final cut, while much of the best show material was inexplicably left out (the very best performances are often the simplest, featuring the astonishing power of the human body somehow doing what seems to be impossible). The film makers seem to have forgotten the fundamental premise that sometimes less is more.
I had a hard time staying interested in performances that often looked the same, but weren’t. One minute we were in medieval Japan (“Ka”). The next scene took us beneath the world’s oceans (“O”). Then, we went back to the 1960’s (“Love”). And, with that the film ended.
Which brings to mind one final outrage. How was “Cavalia” omitted from the final cut? Arguably the most impressive Cirque du Soleil show of all, this dazzling spectacle includes dozens of live trained horses in the performance. How or why the film makers managed to leave out some of the best scenes of the entire theatrical catalog is mind-boggling and utterly unforgivable. If you can’t include just a few scenes from the astonishing parade of horses in “Cavalia,” then why even bother?
Hard to believe, but I’m not sure those who created Cirque du Soleil: Worlds Apart 3D could have made a worse film had they tried. Absolutely nothing in this film works. Worse, the standard admission price ($15) is significantly higher than the normal movie ticket ($11).
One final thought: Those who are aware of my film prejudices know of my disdain for anything that stars Adam Sandler.
That said and established as fact, this film makes the latest Adam Sandler movie bomb look like The Godfather.
RATING: ZERO STARS (OUT OF TEN)