In 2007's "Knocked Up," Seth Rogen and Paul Rudd memorably head off to Las Vegas to watch Cirque du Soleil under the influence of some psychedelic mushrooms. They sit and watch with giggly wonder as the troupe's members leap around, cling to poles at lofty heights and bend their muscular forms into shapes seemingly exclusive to gummi creations. Of course, the drugs eventually go bad, and the show turns into a nightmarish slurry of creepy costumes, weird sets and an oversized man-baby.
I'm not just referencing this scene because it's almost impossible to think about "Cirque du Soleil: Worlds Away" without also remembering Rudd and Rogen giggling like schoolboys – a feat made even more impossible considering "Knocked Up's" sort-of sequel, "This Is 40," was released on the same day, a scheduling quirk that absolutely had to have been on purpose. It's because the troupe's 3-D cinematic sampler can now offer fans a mild taste of the duo's dazed amazement, no shrooms necessary.
There is technically a story in "Worlds Away." A young girl named Mia (Cirque performer Erika Linz) is checking out an old-school traveling circus in her small town when she catches the eye of the handsome Aerialist (Igor Zaripov, another Cirque member), the star acrobat. Unfortunately, she gets his attention at the wrong time – in the middle of his trapeze act – and the Aerialist ends up falling to his death.
Or so you'd think. Instead of going splat, the Aerialist goes through the sandy ground and winds up in a strange circus-themed alternate dimension. In her panic, Mia follows and tries to find him while segments from Cirque du Soleil's portfolio of real life shows distract her. She's very motivated to find her true love ... just as soon as this sweet wirework routine is all done. And this trampoline number. And this water dance. And so on.
So yeah, the frame story is pretty flimsy, but if "Worlds Apart" was held together by floss for the first half, the second half is tied together by overcooked spaghetti. The movie hits the midway point and pretty much abandons the lovers' tale, suddenly throwing in several Beatles sequences, an Elvis number and a chase scene between unknown mystical beings that takes place on a massive rotating Plinko board. The film would've been better off just selling itself as a 90-minute highlight reel instead of incorporating a story that's like a puzzle whose pieces are slowly melting into a pile of mush.
That being said, "Worlds Apart" is an impressive pile of mush (put that quote on the poster), and if viewed solely as a Now That's What I Call Music-like compilation of Cirque's greatest hits, the movie becomes easier to forgive. The acrobatics are often remarkable, with performers swinging through the air, clinging and jumping from whatever objects are available. The Elvis trampoline number is utterly useless, but it sure looks cool, with the actors bounding and flipping about with fascinating ease. Anything involving the vertical stage is also a marvel.
Helping Cirque du Soleil land its jump to the big screen is the fact that the 3-D is actually well used. There's a lot of depth, making the actors' stunts really leap off the screen and pleasantly adding to the sense of wonder. I suppose that's the benefit of having James Cameron, 3-D's number one cheerleader, as a producer.
Admittedly, there are a few missteps with the technology. Director Andrew Adamson, the man behind the first two "Shrek" and Narnia movies, shoots most of the soaring trapeze segments from the side, which doesn't really capture the stomach-knotting thrill of dangling over a dark abyss by one's toe. The sense of height just isn't there. However, "Worlds Away" still uses 3-D better than about 95% of 3-D releases this year.
Here's an easy test to see whether you will like "Cirque du Soleil: Worlds Away:" When you first saw that it was coming out, were you excited? Did you think "Wow, that's a thing I should see?" Or did your brain forget its existence before you even finished reading the title? If you answered yes to the first two questions, well, then merry Christmas.
No Talkbacks for this article.
Post your comment/review now
Disclaimer: Please note that Facebook comments are posted through Facebook and cannot be approved, edited or declined by OnMilwaukee.com. The opinions expressed in Facebook comments do not necessarily reflect those of OnMilwaukee.com or its staff.
Recent Articles & Blogs by Matt Mueller
Published Nov. 30, 2016
Marcus Lemonis' recent visit to Milwaukee for "The Profit" may not have gone according to plan, but he still has his sights on the Cream City, as his Bentley's Pet Stuff chain will open six new shops in around the city this weekend.
Published Nov. 29, 2016
While scenic designer Todd Edward Ivins' knowledge of the Milwaukee Rep's "A Christmas Carol" was mostly a blank slate, he was more than aware of the daunting legacy before him when he began work helping to reimagine the holiday classic.
Published Nov. 29, 2016
For many, Election Day was a day of shellshocked hurt, disappointment and fear. But today is a new day, and it's time to go to work doing good and helping those in need. Here are just a few ways you can reach out and make a difference.
Published Nov. 28, 2016
Christmas came early for Milwaukee, as Vogue Magazine gifted the city a flattering place in its recent "5 Industrial Cities Making America's Rust Belt Shine Again" travel article. See what they had to say!
Published Nov. 27, 2016
Netflix's much-anticipated "Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life" premiered this holiday weekend, and, while most of the show played like a sloppy but warmly satisfying Thanksgiving dinner, the ending left an uneasy aftertaste.
Published Nov. 22, 2016
Kenneth Lonergan's movie "Manchester By the Sea" has been a part of Oscar talk ever since January, but before it hits town, audiences can get a taste of his work with the Chamber's "Lobby Hero." We learned more about the show and why Lonergan's material works so well.
Published Nov. 22, 2016
Christmas has come early for Netflix subscribers, as the service announced its new arrivals for December - including "Captain America: Civil War," only the biggest movie of the year. And that's far from all. Here's everything coming and going next month.
Published Nov. 21, 2016
Some excitement quite literally hit Farwell Avenue early Monday afternoon, as a significant part of a building set for demolition fell onto the street.
Published Nov. 20, 2016
Despite being surrounded by the unfamiliar, I felt like I was cozily at home during my stay at The Astor Hotel - and that's a pretty impressive achievement for a hotel, especially when a guest's guts are actively staging a violent coup against him.
Published Nov. 16, 2016
Progress is moving fast on The Westin Milwaukee hotel - which will hold 220 rooms and a restaurant when it opens in June 2017 - and as evidence, this morning, The Westin hosted a special ceremony and a tour of the views and rooms in progress.