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An arrogant New York disc jockey (Jeff Bridges) loses his soul after a brash remark of his to a phone-in listener triggers a mass murder. He meets a visionary street bum (Robin Williams), a former professor of medieval history traumatized by the same tragedy, and the two lost spirits manage to save each other, with help from their girlfriends (Mercedes Ruehl and Amanda Plummer). Directed by Terry Gilliam (Brazil, The Adventures of Baron Munchausen) from an original script by newcomer Richard LaGravenese, this enormously entertaining and wonderfully acted but compromised New Age comedy spectacular represents Gilliam's bid to prove his commercial mettle, and the results are simultaneously highly personal and extremely corrupt—a shameless attempt to “give the public what it wants” that is shot full of brilliance. If you check your brain at the concessions counter, you won't have any problems; if you treasure Gilliam at his best and take his ideas seriously, you'll probably be infuriated as well as delighted. Powerhouse performances by Bridges, Williams, and Ruehl help disguise the crassness of the commercial manipulations by intermittently suggesting real people (Plummer, on the other hand, is hamstrung by a cartoon part), and Michael Jeter and an uncredited Tom Waits enliven the street life. Visually impressive, frequently pretentious, and extremely fluid as narrative (the 137 minutes sail by effortlessly), this mythic comedy-drama presents Gilliam as half seer, half snake-oil salesman and defies you to sort out which is which (1991).

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