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 Aug. 2, 2015
Jake Gyllenhaal's impressive physical transformation from scrawny media parasite in "Nightcrawler" to pro boxer in "Southpaw" has snagged most of the movie's pre-release hubbub - partly because, well, there's not all that much to say about the cliche-ridden, predictable film housing that handsome new physique.
Published Aug. 1, 2015
Like a real-life version of the 2010 Greek film "Dogtooth," six boys and their little sister weren't allowed to leave their drab New York City apartment for almost all of their young lives thanks to their parents' rules. First-time director Crystal Moselle certainly stumbles onto a fascinating story for her doc "The Wolfpack," and she doesn't waste it either, absorbing the viewer into a bizarre and often unsettling psychological experiment playing out right in reality.
Published July 24, 2015
At first glance, Ellington Ratliff may seem like the odd man in the pop rock band R5. He's the only one who's not a member of the Lynch family. He's the only one with a first name that doesn't begin with R (Riker, Rocky, Ross and Rydel make up the rest), and he's the only bandmate not born and raised in Colorado. Instead, Ratliff was born out in Los Angeles and split time in Wisconsin, making the band's Riverside gig Friday night a return of sorts.
Published July 23, 2015
If the last two days have proven anything, it's that Milwaukee will freaking lose their mind over the mere idea of a lion. At least, local movie fans Stephen Milek and Christopher Kai House certainly hope that is the case, as the two film buffs attempt to bring the notoriously insane 1981 thriller/borderline snuff film "Roar" to town.
Published July 22, 2015
Bookended by AJ Bombers and Water Street Brewery, Water Street is famous for three Bs: bars, burgers and bros. The tightly packed combination of those things has made the area a popular nighttime hot spot. Yet amongst all of the bars and clubs is something unexpected: A. Werner Silversmith, a buried treasure - quite literally considering its glass cases and shelves containing shimmering, beautifully repaired silver pieces - hiding in plain sight.
Published July 20, 2015
Brooklyn-based indie band Lazyeyes guitarist and singer Jason Abrishami has never been to Milwaukee - let alone any part of the Midwest really. He admits he hasn't even heard that much about the Cream City, but he'll learn about the city firsthand Wednesday night when the band and its shoegaze-laced dream rock makes its maiden trip to the city via a gig at The Mad Planet.
Published July 19, 2015
Tarsem Singh is a man who spent about four years and much of his own money traveling the globe's most outrageously beautiful locales in order to make his magnum opus "The Fall." So how'd he end up standing behind the camera of "Self/Less," an utterly anonymous and impact-free immortality action-thriller that - much like the fresh if not quite new bodies being peddled in the film - seems "alive only in the most basic sense"?
Published July 18, 2015
What if? It's two simple words, not even adding up 10 letters, but that seemingly innocent question has likely haunted every single person that's walked this planet at some point or another. And it's a question that fascinates Milwaukee native Cynthia Swanson, so much so that she made that idea the cornerstone for her debut novel, "The Bookseller."
Published July 17, 2015
Every band has at least a small group of devoted fans cheering it on and supporting it on its way to the spotlight. The retro "nu-wop" family band The Bronx Wanderers, coming to Festa Italiana this weekend, is no different - except some of those devoted fans just happen to be entertainment icons from their hometown neighborhood, including Dion DiMucci, Tony Orlando and Oscar-nominated actors Chazz Palminteri and Danny Aiello.
Published July 15, 2015
When Festa Italiana starts up this Friday at Henry Maier Festival Park, many will flock down to the lakefront to gulp down some real authentic Italian food and wine. Yet some of the most revered tastes of Italian culture coming to town this weekend are wholly inedible: the lovingly crafted and almost identical replicas of the country's most famous sites - this year including a 50-foot duplicate of the iconic Trevi Fountain.