Based on a children's book, The Adventures of Baron Munchausen is a big, beautiful mess. Visually stunning - and this before CGI - the set pieces are often breathtaking, with moments of beauty that only the cinema can provide. The scenes of Venus (a young and nubile Uma Thurman) arising from her shell, or dancing with the Baron in mid-air amongst cascading fountains, are worth the price of admission. One can enjoy these moments on the small screen, but when seen larger then life the effect is nothing short of transporting.
Not surpisingly, the mood is rather Python-esque: light and ludicrous with a twisted logic. John Neville is suitably dashing in the title role. The rest of the cast, including Eric Idle, Oliver Reed, Jonathan Pryce, Valentina Cortese, and an uncredited Robin Williams, are obviously having a blast. They're as over-the-top as one would expect in what is essentially a fairy tale. Nine-year-old Sarah Polley is the sole voice of reason here, in a surprisingly mature performance.
As retold by Gilliam, The Adventures of Baron Munchausen is more than just "hot air and phantasy" (to quote a character from the film). It is a spiritual allegory. Ever the visionary, keenly aware of archetypes and the power of film, Gilliam has created a fable of empowerment, of remembering one's true self and embracing one's gifts for the betterment of all. Symbols and mythology need not be understood by the intellect for their meanings to be grasped on a deeper, subconscious level. That is the highest ideal of art, and in that respect Terry Gilliam is a true artist.
[Screencaps via DVDBeaver.com]