The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (1988) Poster

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Give me flights of imagination over drama anyday!
kitchen-119 October 2004
Wasn't feeling the very best today, but had to get on with it anyway, as you do, you know, and, when I finally got a chance to sit down in my own living room this afternoon who should come bursting thru the door but my 6 year old son and about 7 of his friends... JUST as this movie, which I've always adored, came on one of The SKY movie channels. I closed the living room curtains for cinematic effect and we all sat down and watched it. They were all entranced by it, even tho' some of them had seen it already.

I've seen "The Adventures of Baron von Munchausen" myself many times and it never fails to fascinate me. It goes a very long way to explain many things that are omnipresent in life (war, sex romance, childhood innocence, adult disillusionment) by illustrating, and somehow making real, well-known classical myths and fairy tales. Oliver Reed deserved some sort of award for his portrayal of the god Vulcan. I read that Sean Connery was slated for the part of King of The Moon but it HAD to be Robin Williams. Mork calling Orson indeed....

This is my first review in this forum and, therefore, I will not go on at great length except to say that viewing this movie again made me determined to state that my favourite movies are movies like "The Adventures of Baron von Munchausen", "Pirates of the Caribbean" and "Yellow Submarine". May you all develop a talent for living happily ever after!
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9/10
The King Of The Moon, and other wild things
domino100325 April 2004
Warning: Spoilers
The Adventures of Baron Munchausen is one of those films that you either love or hate. You may hate it because the inner child in you has not been released. You may love it because the inner child in you have full reign and want a wonderful fairy tale. This film has all the elements, flying ships (A balloon made of ladies knickers), monsters (A gigantic whale that looks like an island), and a little girl observing all the fantastical adventures. A city is under siege and a theater troupe is trying to perform a play during all of this. In comes an elderly man (The wonderful John Neville)who claims that the troupe has it all wrong and that he, himself, is the real Baron and wants to tell the story straight. From there, his adventure really takes off. He and Sally (The cute as a button Sarah Polley)go off in search of his friends to help save the city: Berthold (Clever Eric Idle), the fastest man around; Albrecht, the strongest man in the world; Adolphus, the man with the sharpest sight around and Gustavus, the man with the keen hearing and breath that can blow elephants off their feet. The gangs adventures bring them to the Moon, where the King (Wild as ever Robin Williams)has trouble holding on to his head, to the Underworld, where Venus (Beautiful Uma Thurman)drives her hubby Vulcan (The wonderful Oliver Reed) insane with jealousy. The story and the visuals (Especially the Moon) are beautiful and the ending is interesting. You get so caught up in the story that the viewer gets lost in what is real and what is not. Great for teens and up. Kids may get scared at some of the scenes.
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8/10
Wonderful Nonsense (a forgotten classic?)
juubei-27 August 2006
A young Sarah Polly is swept on a grand storybook adventure when her father's theater is visited by the source of its drama; the real Baron himself (perfectly played by John Neville). The town is under siege by the Turks and only Munchausen and his band of curious adventurers can save it, so long as Death or a doctor doesn't catch him.

Terry Gilliam, having hit his stride with the 1984-and-a-half classic Brazil, went on to fulfill his ultimate fantasy film with a great cast of actors (Jonathan Price included), beautifully detailed sets and costumes, and a very strange yarn of a tale indeed. Bit parts are filled out by Robin Williams, the late Oliver Reed (seen most recently as Proximo in Gladiator) serving up a fiery Vulcan - husband to a young (not to mention stunning) Uma Thurman as Venus.

A great deal of the magic that sparkled in Brazil seems to have been rekindled here, and while it may have been panned at the time of its release, time has treated it well. The effects have that pre-cg feeling that makes me warm and fuzzy inside, and while its a little slow to get started, it surprises around every turn.

Fans of Gilliam's work (and those who still possess that curious inner child) will find much to enjoy here - even if it is nothing more than wonderful nonsense.
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10/10
Munchausen's tale as he himself would have seen it
Boris Todorov11 November 2004
This is NOT a movie for everyone. This is not a movie for people who want a fantasy plot... according to the rules of fantasy movies. This is a movie which has one great ambition and has ABSOLUTELY, TOTALLY, UTTERLY, FULLY, UNQUESTIONABLY fulfilled: to present the story of Baron Munchausen as the real one would have seen it. This is a great piece of visualization of the culture of 18th-century Enlightenment (did you notice that the bad guys all wore uniforms from the Napoleonic age - as a sign of when this great period of human cultural achievement finished?). It is a movie in which the sets and costumes are THE ESSENCE - the mechanical giant fish, Venus getting out of the pearl, the small amours with the pink garlands, the pinkish clouds, the two-dimensional buildings on the Moon, the separation of the head from the body, the exoticising of the "Grand Turk" - these are all correct reproductions of both the imagery from, and the topics relevant for, the Baroque period. IT IS success.
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9/10
Are stories real? They are certainly powerful...
Phoenix-3626 January 1999
A magical film about the power and importance of story telling and imagination. The creation of the ever fecund mind of Terry Gilliam, this may very well be my favorite movie (ah, but it is so very hard to choose). Filled with a spirit of adventure, and a deftness far too rare these days, it is the delightful tale of the adventurous life of Baron Munchausen. He is a hero of the grand old sort, a kind of 17th century James Bond.

Baron Munchausen has a knowledge of fine wines, is popular with the ladies, and is the finest soldier in the kingdom. He has a band of sidekicks (the fastest man, the strongest, one with amazing sight, another with amazing lungs and hearing) who assist him in fighting the Turks; traveling to meet the King of the Moon; falling into the center of the earth to meet Vulcan and Aphrodite; and playing cards with the Grim reaper, after being swallowed by an enormous monster-fish the size of an island.

Along the way Gilliam's wit skewers rationalism, science, realism, practicality and pragmatics. As much an explication of faith as a depiction of what makes life truly worth living, and what is worth dying for, I rent this again and again. It is only my own foolishness that has prevented me from purchasing a copy. Literally wonderful.

Watch for fabulous cameos from a whole host of unexpected people, including Robin Williams and Sting.
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9/10
One of the Most Delightful, Non-Sense and Visually Stunning Fantasies
Claudio Carvalho7 September 2011
In the late Eighteenth Century, a European town is under siege of the Turkish army. Meanwhile, the theater company owned by Henry Salt (Bill Paterson) entertains the dwellers with the production of "The Adventures of Baron Munchausen". Out of the blue, an old man interrupts the presentation claiming that he is Hieronymus Karl Frederick Baron von Munchausen (John Neville) and he tells that he is the one to be blamed by the Turkish attack.

The Baron Munchausen tells how he had won a bet against the Sultan (Petter Jeffrey) with the abilities of his servants Berthold (Eric Idle); Adolphus (Charles McKeown}; Albrecht (Winston Dennis); and Gustavus (Jack Purvis) and earned his treasure. Further, he offers to help the locals against the Turks and builds a balloon to seek out his missing servants.

During his journey, he finds the girl Sally (Sarah Polley) hidden in the balloon and they travel to the moon, where they meet the deranged King of the Moon Roger (Robin Williams) with his detachable head, and his wife, the Queen of the Moon Ariadne (Valentina Cortese) that has a crush on the Baron. They are arrested by the jealous Roger and find Berthold in the cage, but Ariadne releases them. When they escape from the moon, they meet Adolphus working to Vulcan (Oliver Reed) inside a volcano. The Baron Munchausen seduces the gorgeous Vulcan's wife Venus (Uma Thurman) and the jealous god throws them in a whirlpool. They are swallowed by a monster and they meet Albrecht and Gustavus in a ship inside the monster. They escape and return to the town to help the people against the invaders. But they are very old and their abilities are gone.

"The Adventures of Baron Munchausen" is one of the most delightful, non- sense and visually stunning fantasies of cinema history. "The Adventures of Baron Munchausen" is also among my favorite books of my childhood and I first saw this film in the late 80's and then on VHS. I have just bought the imported DVD that surprisingly has Portuguese subtitles and today I have seen this film again.

Terry Gilliam directs with his peculiar surrealistic and ironic style and uses magnificent special effects for a 1988 film. It is amazing to realize that twenty-three years have passed since this film was released. The sweet Sarah Polley shows her talent with a great performance in one lead role. Uma Thurman is in the top of her eternal beauty. Robin Williams is an unknown actor and uncredited in the role of Roger, The King of the Moon. My vote is nine.

Title (Brazil): "As Aventuras do Barão de Münchausen" ("The Adventures of Baron Munchausen")
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Before "The Golden Compass", and before "Stardust"
Blueghost13 May 2008
And all the other fantasy market driven flicks to come out in recent years at the time of this writing, there was Gilliam's take on Munchausen.

Though the miniature effects by today's standards might seem rather primitive, the scope and scale of the film, combined with some exceptional and exquisite art direction and acting, create an incredible visual tapestry. Unknown to much of the audience at the time, Gilliam's film was to be the future of movies in terms of genre and character exposition. I and an acquaintance of mine at the time were hopeful that "The Adventures of Baron Munchausen" would succeed, because then it would open the doors for other "superhero" films, and push story telling to its limits. But, that was back in 1989, and the boom that we anticipated took some fifteen years to take off. Well, at least our careers weren't riding on that hedge... but I digress.

The other aspect of this film, as I was reminded of on the IMDb BBS, is that the story itself is a blend of both an old Russian tale, "The Fool of the World and the Flying Ship", and Rupert Raspe's take on Baron Munchausen's tall tales. In short, without divulging facts of either sets of fables, the Baron, as originally portrayed, was just a little too robust, and the Russian tale offers a chance to splinter the Baron's self aggrandizement.

Some facts you won't find in the film; Baron Munchausen was a real man, and liked to "brag" about himself (to put it mildly). He actually fought for the Turks, being a German mercenary for hire. He claimed to have all kinds of amazing abilities with a gentleman's character (even having visited Royalty as well as the U.S. and the president in the white-house), but was more or less simply a soldier of fortune.

Gilliam's film, in this vein, pays homage to Munchausen, real and fictional alike by playing fast and loose with the "facts" of his dual existence. In this way it's a pleasant ride, and the sets and locations are incredible to look at.

Critiques; there's a couple of miniature shots that bug me--in particular the ballroom dancing sequence. I'm sure it was a difficult shot to get, but some articulation of the models was really a must to sell this sequence. Using a process shot for the closeups kind of added to the destruction of the illusion. Putting the actors on a scissor's life, and shooting them against the actual set would've served the production better, and probably saved money (a must for this production). Also, it's a tragedy the moon sequence, as originally envisioned, wasn't realized. Were left with two actors to carry that sequence, instead of the highly populated kingdom as described in the actual tales.

The new DVD is a blessing. The colors and details of the film are far richer than the original DVD release. The colors are vibrant and rich in luminosity. They accentuate the late 18th century visual thrust that this film is attempting to deliver. On top of that the overall level of visual information has been enhanced from both initial DVD and VHS releases. One can almost feel the texture of the clothes and clouds as they scroll and undulate across the screen. A definite plus.

A very fine film that predates superhero and fantasy genres by almost a couple of decades. As I stated earlier, some of the SFX may not hold, but the overall scope of the film should prove more than a counterweight to this, and give to the viewer an emotional and visual effulgent experience.

WARNING; it's not a film for everyone. As a family film it skirts the edges of PG and PG-13 territory, and the far-out nature of the film may be a bit too existential for some adults to absorb. Still, I liked it very much.

Enjoy :-)
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Other people have seen it? And liked it?! I thought I was the only one...
pianogyrl24 September 2004
I've only known one other person who has even heard of this movie(also the only other one who's heard of and liked Mel Brooks' the Twelve Chairs). This is certainly one of the most bizarre and unique movies I've ever seen but the more times I see it, the more I like it. Robin Williams and Eric Idle are great of course, but Neville does a good job too. The story is truly unique, leaving you wondering where fiction ends and reality begins. In fact, it's much like "Adaptation" in that respect, come to think of it. While not on par with Monty Python and the Holy Grail, this is a good piece of work. My advice: let your brain take a vacation for a couple of hours and just absorb it. You'll appreciate it better if you try not to make too much sense of it. If it really confuses you, read the book. Yes, there is a book and there really was a man who called himself Baron Munchausen. The book is called <u>The Adventures of Baron Munchausen</u> and the edition I had explained his whole story. Terry Gilliam did a great job of bringing this man to screen and I highly recommend it if you're tired of the usual Hollywood fluff.
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10/10
Great Surprise
dr_forbush12 July 2004
My kids, who are great Monty Python fans found this movie at the library. Thinking that I knew about all the successful Monty Python related movies I figured that this movie must have been a sleeper. I was greatly surprised by the movie.

In my opinion this movie was much better than Time Bandits. Time Bandits was weak mainly because of the weak (or non-existent) ending. This movie had a much better conclusion. Plus, this movie also had a very strong thread running through the movie, without hitting you over the head with it.

I also enjoyed the literary references and Robin Williams as the king of the Moon. My favorite reference was when Venus came out of the giant clam. It reminded me of Kilgore Trout's "Venus on the Half Shell." (Kurt Vonegut). That was a very nice touch.
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"We're out of virgins."
DarthBill24 September 2004
Yet another wild, whacked out fantasy from Terry Gilliam, the only American born member of the Monty Python comedy troupe.

This is the story of Baron Munchausen (Neville), an old man still being chased by an Arabian king because after winning a bet Munchausen took too much money out of the king's vaults and now the king and his army are apparently attacking a colony because Munchausen's there. With the help of toothy little girl (Sarah Polley before she grew up to do the remake of "Dawn of the Dead") and rounding up his old comrades (among them Eric Idle, the "third tallest member of Monty Python"). All sorts of wild insanity ensues.

This was the last of Gilliam's "trilogy of the imagination", the other two entries in this so called trilogy being "Time Bandits" and "Brazil". If Terry Gilliam has a flaw with his fantasies, it may very well be that he drags out some gags too long, even if its a really good gag. Though I'm not entirely sure I enjoy his work, I must say I admire Gilliam and the recklessness of his projects, because at least he's got the balls to try to do things differently. To this day, he still ranks as being one of the most off the wall, unconventional director chaps out there.

All in all, I think I liked this one better than either "Time Bandits" or "Brazil" (though "Brazil" probably has the most racy commentary of Gilliam's so called trilogy).

Best line: "We're out of virgins." - Jonathan Pryce
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7/10
Fantasy adventure filmed in Belchite location where took place the strongest battle in Spanish civil war
ma-cortes16 August 2011
Fantastic film based on classic film from German Film studio UFA titled Baron Munchausen (1943) by Josef Von Baky with Hans Alberts. It contains stunning visuals - it's a feast for the eyes- , imagination and strange roles . The tall Baron Munchausen (John Neville), each time united his horse Bucefalo , undertakers several adventures and feats . He's a tale-teller who is accompanied by his faithful companions , a group formed by odd and riveting characters as a little girl (Sarah Polley) , an idiot (Eric Idle) whose feet run faster than sound , a giant man and a dwarf . Munchausen assured that he has visited the Moon and meets the king (Robin Williams) , Venus (Valentina Cortese) , visited inside of the volcano of the Gods (Oliver Reed) and fallen for Venus . Later on , being swallowed into the belly of a gigantic wale . All of this stories are woven into the movie's axis tale , the siege of a European town , Vienna, by a Turkish army whose caliph (Peter Jeffreys) is after Munchausen's head .

This is an imaginative , glamorous , chaotic fantasy based on the wonderful trips carried out by Munchausen , though a little bit tedium too and paced in fits and starts . Marvelous special effects are visually stunning and magnificently realized with no computer generator . Slick narrative but often confused , proceeded in a circular pace by means of flashbacks that flow into the present from past time and never quite what they seem . Starring a considerable cast of top-names performers as John Neville , Jonathan Pryce ,Eric Idle , Sting and Uma Thurman and Sarah Polley , both of then practically unknown and nowadays prestigious actresses . Impressive sets and breathtaking production design , being filmed in Belchite (Spain) location where took place several hard combats during Spanish Civil War .This big-budgeted , under-appreciated film was a flop at the box office and panned by the critics ; however , today is best considered . Colorful and glimmer cinematography by Giuseppe Rotunno, Fellini's usual, and evocative musical score by Michael Kamen . The motion picture is imaginatively directed by Terry Gilliam , an expert on wonderful , surreal atmospheres ( Time bandits , Brazil , Fisher king , Doctor Parnasus). The film might be described as an extraordinary fantasy full of imagination and color . Rating : Good , better than average . Worthwhile watching .
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9/10
Brilliant!!!!!
grrrr9712 October 2006
This has to be one of my favourite films ever, I'll admit it's not the greatest work of art ever made and to be honest it never tries to be. I get very annoyed with these armchair film experts who think just because they've sat on their backsides for twenty years, neglecting everything except their expanding waist lines feel they have a god given right to pass judgement on a great film maker's hard work. I've made films and let me tell you EXPERTS out their it's the hardest thing you could ever undertake, harder even than getting off your butts and getting some exercise.

Baron Munchausen is in my opinion a visionary masterpiece, like Brazil and Time Bandits its pure escapism, but intelligent python-Esq escapism. I sat down recently and watched all three films with my girlfriend, (not in one night) and was dismayed when she started yawning and checking her watch every five minutes. I think I've come to a conclusion why......

Munchausen is a film that people with an imagination will enjoy, but if sadly your a member of the Ally Mcbeal, lets go shopping watch American Pie and wear what every other moron wears generation, you won't get this film. Mainly because Gilliam is far more intelligent than you, both in his use of visual metaphors and sexual innuendo but also in the fact as a director he thinks of things even Tim Burton would be jealous of.

Okay the film tales off towards the end, but after to been subjected to such a rich bombardment of visual genius can you blame Terry for being tired.

9 out of 10 And my favourite bit is when Eric Idle chases the bullet!!!!! GENIUS!!!
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10/10
Romanticism v. Reality
theowinthrop2 April 2006
Warning: Spoilers
When this film came out in 1988 the criticism that followed was that while it had some great special effects, it was too long and too expensive, and did not make sense. But THE ADVENTURES OF BARON MUNCHAUSEN, while certainly very expensive, may be among the best film adaptations and adoptions of a well known fictional classic into a major motion picture.

The stories it is based on are Raspe's 1780 collection of tall tales of that great adventurer and lover Baron Hieronymous Von Munchausen. The best known tale is how the Baron travels hundreds of miles back and forth during a battle by riding on top of cannon balls (as he does in the film) and how he visits the King and Queen of the Moon. The book made Baron Von Munchausen's name a synonym for liar (albeit a colorful liar). It was glorified by one edition in the 19th Century with illustrations by the great Gustave Dore, that was used by Terry Gilliam for his inspiration in this film

I might add that this was not the first time the character popped up on film. There was a Czech film THE ADVENTURES OF BARON MUNCHASEN that was made in the 1950s by the same creators of THE WONDERFUL WORLD OF JULES VERNE. And in the early 1930s an "all star" comedy was made in Hollywood called MEET THE BARON, based on a popular radio show of that time called BARON MUNCHAUSEN, with a comic named Jack Pearl as the Baron. Although it had the Three Stooges, Jimmy Durante, and Edna Mae Oliver in it, it also had Pearl. A bit more bearable as a dialog comic and "zany" than the abominable Joe Penner, Pearl gave a catch line that gained national attention in that period. When his garrulous count was questioned by his suspicious trapped listener the Baron would say, "Was you dere Charley?", which would shut-up his questioner.

But Gilliam is probing the reason for tall tales. A town in middle Europe is under serious siege in the middle 18th Century by the Turks. It is under constant bombardment. There is only one open theater working, and they intend to put on a dramatization on the career of Baron Munchausen. But they are finding that this dramatization is only being begrudgingly allowed by the local authorities (led by Jonathan Pryce, as an obnoxious diplomat and civil servant). Pryce does not believe in fantasy, and feels that the people should see only reality. Of course, as the film progresses one sees that Pryce's idea of reality is bloody and deadly to most people, and will only glorify the "peacemakers" (a role he intends for himself).

As the play is put on by the father of the film's small heroine, Sally Salt (Sarah Polley), a man appears who denounces the story as false. He is Baron Von Munchausen (John Neville). He dismisses the actors (to the anger of the cast and the audience) but he manages to quell their anger by talking about why it was not a real version of his career. Soon he and Sally take a look at the deteriorating situation on the battlefield. They construct a balloon, and take off. And the film then follows their adventures around the world, and on the moon, and even with Vulcan (Oliver Reed) and his wife (Uma Thurmond). I refrain from going into detail but the part dealing with the King and Queen of the Moon (Robin Williams and Valentina Cortese) is very funny and exciting. In the end Munchausen finds his four old servants (Eric Idle, Charley McKeown, Winston Dennis, Jack Purvis)and returns to the town to save it.

The film has a Chinese box type of construction. Surprise ending follows surprise ending building to the climax - a peaceful one but one that is shattering none the less. For after watching the destruction of the Turkis forces we learn that the Baron has been simply telling his tales to the audience, and they have been spellbound. Pryce shows up with a military bodyguard, berating the old windbag for wasting the audience's time with all this romantic claptrap. Munchausen points out the firing has stopped. Everyone notices (including an amazed and troubled Pryce - he has missed his chance of gaining fame by ending the war himself). The audience rushes to the gates, and finds the enemy has abandoned the siege. Romanticism, and it's calming effects - it's powers of giving our dreams and wishes wing to soar, has defeated the reality that Pryce offered. And the film ends.

I like it. It is saying that in this rotten world there is a seriously place for imagination to comfort and sustain our spirits. The film actually was one of the best philosophical lessons in movie history.

Being by Gilliam there are numerous Monty Python touches in it (including his pal Idle's appearances as the fastest man in the world - trying to outrun a bullet). Note too the "artistic" Turkish Sultan, who is composing an opera called "The Torturer's Apprentice", which includes a device torturing a half dozen prisoners to yell "Ow" and "Ooh" in time. The performances were good, including Pryce's priggish bureaucrat, but best of all was Neville. Aside from his appearance as Sherlock Holmes in the film A STUDY IN TERROR, and his John Churchill in the television series THE FIRST CHURCHILLS, Neville never had a major lead role (though plenty of good supporting parts: Lord Alfred "Bosie" Douglas to Robert Morley's Oscar Wilde in the film of that name, for example). He certainly made the most of this one, proving to be a wise old man, but having moments of serious doubt and personal sadness. In all it was a terrific performance in a remarkable film.
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8/10
A visionary masterwork from a master with a vision.
Sergeant_Tibbs7 January 2009
A visionary masterwork; simply the finest fantasy and kids film ever - it has everything they should have; unlimited imagination and extreme extravagance with common morality. It adapts to the general conventions of the superhero subgenre - an eccentric lead character (played by John Nelville) with servants of abnormal ability (one a man with strength, another with incredible eyesight, another with superb hearing and lungs and one with ultimate agility). There is not a moment in this film where I felt bored or unengaged with the 'normal' world being just as fun as the fantasy - though the film does not put a definitive line between the two. The epic set decoration and art direction left me in a state of absolute awe. The whimsical score also helped the cinematic value as this is a film that completely grasps its scale (which is all the way round the world and even to the moon). A comparison of the naivety between the two protagonists (the Baron and a girl he befriends - a young Sarah Polley giving one of the best child performances I've ever seen - and of which her father actually portrays the Baron in a play, with a neat twist of the actors playing the servants also playing the actors who play the servants) is a delightful and a key theme in enjoying it. In modern day films in the mainstream line, threats are usually ineffective because there's a definite certainty that the protagonist is going to survive, but in this film, despite following these same conventions the threats are still exciting. Every single attempt at humour is hilarious, no matter how corny or dry. One could see the film as a satire on heroism - the Baron as the hero cliché is supposed to save the town the girl lives in - but his servants are old, tired and unable to perform; which provokes the idea of heroism as a limited virtue but forever a standard - as a quote from the Baron suggests, "I'm usually on the good side." It's the lust for reward and priase that causes this and finally allows them to succeed. It then presents us with the idea that heroism is indeed in fiction and true heroism is but a state on mind (perhaps a reference to Gilliam's previous film, Brazil). This film could also be interpreted as a satire on the ridiculous and pointlessness of warfare to prove ones righteousness as a quote from Johnathan Pryce's character suggests; "We surrendered last time, it's your turn." Unfortunately the special effects are inconsistent - sometimes impressive but sometimes so basic (like models and objects on strings) it took me out of the moment. It also suffers from many contrivances in considering how the characters bump into each other as a consequence of a villain's action, especially since it was unintentional and the primary goal was to reunite the gang. Eric Idle gives a wonderful comic performance (like a jester figure) as does Robin Williams; plus a very, very sexy Uma Thurman. Very unpredictable screenplay - a factor I value greatly, plus it doesn't rush it's pace too much (at least in the first hour). This is clearly Gilliam doing exactly what he loves - a film with a big heart and passion behind it, and it shows.

8/10
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Tedious with occasional spurts of imagination
LCShackley5 May 2010
I went to see this film in a bargain theater in 1988 after its disastrous release. I fell asleep and missed virtually the entire film.

So after 22 years, I watched it on cable and realized that I probably was better off having a nap than sitting through this bloated, self-indulgent Gilliam extravaganza.

Gilliam obviously has a wonderful visual sense, but his need to always go over the top has doomed many of his film projects. He tries to blame the failure of MUNCHAUSEN on Dawn Steel, and he certainly did get a bad deal from Sony, but this movie would never have been a hit even with major PR behind it. It's too confusing and dark for kids, and too boring for adults. There's no linear sense, just set pieces strung together. The truly inspired bits would take about 20 minutes to watch.

I'm surprised that any studios ever green-light a Gilliam project, with his history of spending enormous sums with little return on investment. As far as I can tell, the last Gilliam movie that made any money was the excellent TWELVE MONKEYS in 1995.

If you want to watch some films by a director with a knack for engaging visuals, but who also knows how to make a plot work, try Jean-Pierre Jeunet.
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7/10
really something
Lee Eisenberg13 July 2006
"The Adventures of Baron Munchausen" has Terry Gilliam written all over it. The fantasy, the cleverness, and everything else. To me, the movie is looking at the challenge of distinguishing reality from fantasy, what with the possibility that the baron's stories just might be true. But whether or not they are, the movie is still really something. I personally think that Terry Gilliam has never gotten the credit that he deserves as a director (surely we have to agree that "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" was infinitely better than any Jean-Claude Van Damme movie).

Anyway, this is one movie that you're sure to like. Since I first saw it, John Neville has had some neat roles ("The X Files", "Urban Legend", "Sunshine"). Also starring Eric Idle, Sarah Polley, Oliver Reed, Jonathan Pryce, Uma Thurman and an uncredited Robin Williams.
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3/10
A Monumentally Expensive, and Disappointing, Muddle
mercuryix-17 January 2008
When I read the reviews by the critics of this film, I wondered if we had seen the same movie. There seems to be a fear when a great artist presents something that doesn't work, that critics are afraid to criticize it because they may reveal their ignorance. Picasso is probably the greatest example of this effect.

The same thing seems to have happened with Baron Munchausen. It is big, the cinematography is first-rate, the production values and the actors are all first rate, but the film itself is impossible to follow. I have always been a big Terry Gilliam fan, and this was one of my biggest disappointments in a film I was sure would be brilliant.

There were several very basic and fixable things wrong with this film. The first is that not everyone is familiar with the Baron Munchausen story. The script should have introduced us to the character and made us familiar with why he is a pathological liar who believes his own tall tales. Secondly, Neville, the actor who played the title role, never had acted in a movie before, and here he acts exactly as if he is on stage, complete with warbling old-age stage voice. Third, Gilliam lost track of what should have been the core interest of the film; the relationship between the hopelessly muddled old man and the little girl who cares about him despite his fabrications. Instead, that gets lost, and we lose the only thread of the story we care about.

Possible Spoilers: The point where we leave reality and enter his tall tales is not made clear, and the fact that the little girl inhabits his tall tales as he tells them, makes it even more confusing and muddled to the viewer. We don't know where we are, and if that is what the director intended, it is a mistake. After a while the audience gets disconnected from the film and we stop caring, because we get tired of being confused.

The characters of the dwarf with sharp hearing, the world's strongest man, Eric Idle as the world's fastest man, and the guy who can see around the world are all superfluous. We don't know who they are other than their powers, what their relationship is with the pathological Munchausen, and why we should care about them. There is an absolutely tedious scene where Eric Idle does a silly dance to confuse Hephaestus (the god of fire) so Munchausen can escape, that goes on and on. The scene has absolutely no purpose and isn't funny, even tho Idle puts everything into it. It's painful to watch, and feels insulting to the audience to believe an Olympic god is going to be "tricked" this way.

This movie reminds me very much of Yellowbeard, in the amount of great talent that is wasted. Gilliam told some pretty tall tales himself to get the movie made, misleading the studios into how much it would cost, then kvetched at length about having to cut down the script. What he should have done was bitten the bullet, swallowed his pride, and had a coherent rewrite done of the script. In this case, less expense, less visuals, and tighter writing would have been much more. The ending makes no sense and will leave the viewer with the full sense of confusion the rest of the movie induced. It will also leave the viewer with the correct sense that they have just wasted well over two hours of their time, waiting for a satisfying conclusion that makes sense of the preceding two hours.

As expensive as this movie was to make, and as much as I admire Gilliam, I can't recommend this movie; it is tedious and headache-inducing, and repeated viewings don't help clear up gaps in the story. You also will not care about a single character in it.

Buy the book "Losing the Light" about the debacle of the making of this film. It is much more gripping, enthralling and fun to read than this movie is to see. In it, Gilliam comes through, unfortunately, as a man done in by his own perceived cleverness and hubris (and deliberate deception, which almost destroyed one company, the completion bond company, after costing it millions), and you will understand why this movie is not more successful than it is. The definitive Munchausen story, for those that care about this character, is still waiting to be made; however, after this $50,000,000 movie, it is doubtful another one about Munchausen will be!
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10/10
Still Amazing
kdowling27 April 2004
In 1988 after a showing of "The Adventures of Baron Munchausen", a child complained "That was the worst movie I ever saw". My eight year old daughter's reaction was "What the hell happened to that child's childhood? She has no sense of awe or imagination!" I agreed. I saw the film again yesterday. I agree more than ever.

Gilliam's film is a hymn to the power of imagination and its power to triumph. Contrary to what the Right Ordinary Horatio Jackson (not to be confused with America's Munchausen like hero, Horatio N. Jackson), we can go to the moon; we can challenge death. Without imagination, we would have accomplished none of those things.

With all the rubbish that is passed off as truth by the popular press, politicians and their spin doctors, this film is a necessary reminder that we do not have to give such lies a moments thought. The Turks were turned back when they came to Vienna. Only hope could accomplish that. Whatever the Jacksons of this world may do to us to force us to follow their mediocre lead, our minds are free.

Most Rev. Maelruain K. Dowling
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5/10
Gulliver's Travels meets Monty Python.
Bing-187 March 2000
This Terry Gilliam directed movie is a visual masterpiece. With stunning cinematography, costumes and make-up, together with great casting for cameos, such as Robin Williams as The King of the Moon, and Uma Thurman as The Goddess Venus, this is a visually pleasing and well acted movie.

The only place where this movie really falls down is in the script, it attempts to be a comedy, but there are few laugh out loud moments, it attempts to be an adventure, but there are few truly exciting incidents.

Nevertheless, the acting, special effects, and costumes easily manage to keep this movie from drowning.

A pleasure for the eyes, if not for the pulse.
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10/10
Imagination triumphant
OldAle125 January 2009
Warning: Spoilers
A thrilling, lively Classical-era fanfare heralds the Columbia logo and signals high adventure and romance, as we open in "the late 18th Century", the "Age of Reason", on a "Wednesday." Already we know that we are in the universe of the man behind Brazil, Terry Gilliam as the expectation caused by the opening chords is quickly subverted by the grim wartime feeling of a starving city under siege by the Turks. Even death itself makes an early appearance, a black winged skeletal angel that will continue to show up throughout the film and which seems to presage an ominous and early end indeed for the characters we meet in the beginning. Young Sally is the daughter of a traveling actor (and head of his theatrical troupe) who plays the magical Baron Munchausen, a fabulous hero famed for his tall tales revolving around such feats as a trip to the moon and the theft of a sultan's treasure. The pathetic troupe puts on its poor mockery of theater in a disintegrating, cavernous building as the town's leader, the Right Ordinary Horatio Jackson (note that title), only to be upstaged by the "real" Baron (John Neville), a drunken and crazy old man - with a real and sharp sword - who proceeds to tell the story of how the town got into this mess....

Gilliam's film is the summation of all of his work as director up until this point, blending the childhood wonder of Time Bandits, the satire on bureaucracy and the feeling for the importance of imagination in the face of hopeless "rationality" of "Brazil", the broad humor of Monty Python and the references to Alice in Wonderland and medieval romance and tall tales of "Jabberwocky". Most of the film charts in a relatively linear way the adventures of the (real) Baron and Sally as they fly off in a balloon made of ladies' underwear in search of Munchausen's four fabulous servants - all of whom we have glimpsed in the opening scene, denying that they are anything but actors. Is the Baron crazy? Is the child Sally the only one who believes him, or in fact the only one who can experience his exploits, or save him from death? The film explores these and many other questions of storytelling and belief and the Baron grows more youthful with success, ages with failure -- as his friends seem at first not to recognize him, and then to be too old and feeble to help him. The baron himself loses faith at times, and only Sally is there to prop him up. At the end, a mind-boggling mixture of battles, triumph, death and funeral, resurrection and above all the Story of The Way It Should End all fuse into one of the most joyous and potent conclusions in film.

Gilliam draws on a wonderful array of sources for this film, which is certainly postmodern in the lightest yet most serious and beautiful sense - there are nods to Alice in Wonderland, The Wizard of Oz, Pinocchio, Renaissance painting, Cyrano de Bergerac and the 1940 Thief of Bagdad among countless others, but the film never seems derivative or obvious; always it is focused on the pure joy of the tale and the strength and power of myth-making in the face of the tedium and joylessness represented by the unscrupulous and ultimately murderous Jackson - played with vicious glee by Jonathan Pryce in an ironic reversal of his role in Gilliam's previous film, "Brazil".

The cast is uniformly fine -- some may be irritated by Polley's admittedly shrill Sally though it seemed an appropriate (and necessary) characterization to me -- with standouts being Pryce, Eric Idle as the fleet-footed but somewhat dimwitted Berthold, and John Neville as the Baron in one of the most unjustly slighted performances from a banner year for film. Giuseppe Rotunno's photography makes much more of an impact on the big screen for sure but it is certainly beautiful enough (particularly in the outdoors/sky sequences) even on the DVD; and Michael Kamen's score is one of my all-time favorites and possibly the best work in his film career. The dialog may strike some as odd, in its mixture of late-20th-century idioms (particularly when voiced by the King of the Moon, Robin Williams) and the more carefully "authentic" 200-year-old jargon of characters like Jackson -- but like most elements of the film, this is carefully designed to throw us off and keep our sense of what is real and not always in doubt.

This is a film I've seen over and over - it scored a big impression when I saw it new, alas not on very many people - and it grows greater with each re-watch. Gilliam really manages here to articulate a very profound statement about how we are losing out way, about how the bottom line and the "rational" way of winning a war - or making a film - may in fact be heartless, cold, and ultimately more dead than the Baron seems to be just before the triumphant finish of the film.

Tied for my favorite film in the toughest year for me to pick a winner, with fellow masterpieces "Distant Voices, Still Lives" and "The Last Temptation of Christ". Easily Gilliam's best film, and in its failure ultimately a signal for a new and less potent (though still interesting) direction in his work. A triumph then, and a tragedy - the film is the career, the career is the film.
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10/10
Beautiful
drgrozozo14 December 2006
Terry Gilliam at his best. Yeah, it failed at box offices, and it received pretty low score here. Don't let that distract you, as people don't know how to watch fairytale anymore. This ain't kids movie, kids would probably enjoy it, but it has so much more to offer to grownups. Where someone found it confusing and unentertaining, you might find it deep, poetic and philosophical. Uma Thurman, John Neville, Eric Idle, Oliver Reed in a epic tale of adventure, love, friendship and bravery. People that have any kind of imagination and inner life might want to give this flick a chance, others would probably be better off with Borat.
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Gilliam does it again...
Tommy-4115 November 1998
With Time Bandits and Brazil, Terry Gilliam amazed me with the way in which he directed and wrote some amazing works of fiction. A similar thing happens here but in a much larger scale. The film is so full of magnificent visuals, including the magnificent balloon ride in which they travel to the moon. Excellent stuff, and spellbounding everything!!
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8/10
Fabulous, Eye-Popping, Hilariously Insane Epic Fantasy Adventure
ShootingShark23 April 2006
Warning: Spoilers
A town is besieged by a Sultan's army. At a rundown theatre, the ageing and eccentric Baron Munchausen appears and resolves to find his powerful allies and end the conflict. Escaping in a balloon made of frilly underwear he travels first to see the King of the Moon, then into a volcano to see Vulcan and Venus, before being swallowed by a giant fish, all the while accompanied by stowaway little girl Sarah. Can he enlist the help of his friends and return in time to save the town ?

This is a wonderful and unique comedy adventure which truly embraces the concept of fantasy with breathless child-like imagination. The vivid imagery is stunning throughout; in one shot for example, our heroes tie a rope made of giant hair around the pointed end of a crescent moon and climb down while geometrically drawn animals spin through space around them. Gilliam, designer Dante Ferretti and cameraman Giuseppe Rotunno create an incredible universe virtually unique to their movie, with cannons shaped like dragons, opulent palaces, sex-crazed ogres with detachable heads, militant cyclops who work in a volcano, a recreation of both Botticelli's Birth Of Venus and the Book of Jonah; even Death itself (both the mythical figure and the act) is visualised better than any other film I can think of. If movies should be about images - and have no doubt they should - this is as rich a picture as any, which also happens to be hilariously good fun. It's essentially three tales book-ended by a larger story but it does not feel episodic - it flows seamlessly and any gaps in narrative logic are an amusing part of the fantasy ("And that was only one of the many occasions on which I met my death.", the Baron quips at one point). The marvellous cast hurl themselves into the madness with terrific abandon - both Neville and Polley (neither of whom had any real film profile before this) are a revelation, bringing gusto, wit and childish cantankerousness to their roles. What other movie has an eighty-year-old man and an eight-year-old girl as the main characters ? The supporting players are all superb, but I particularly like Paterson as the highly-strung theatre actor Salt, an unbilled Williams as the totally loopy Moon King, and especially Reed (in a rare comic bit) as the alternately soppy and temper-prone Vulcan; as he glares jealously at the Baron and his wife Venus waltzing on air in a palatial ballroom adorned with waterfalls and cherubs, he bellows, "Nice, isn't it !! We've just 'ad it done !!". There is so much to enjoy in this film - Michael Kamen's fabulous score, Idle's (literal) running gags, the incredible big battle sequence, Pryce's derisory sneering, endlessly clever and beautiful shots (the most amazing of which is a shot of the night sky which melds into a shot of water which melds into a shot of sand, an effect achieved entirely in the camera) - that I can't begin to describe it all. Shot in Italy and Spain, by all accounts it cost a fortune and was a horrific experience to make but none of this shows on screen; all that remains is the director's genius. Written by Gilliam and McKeown (and dedicated to Gilliam's kids, for obvious reasons), the origins of the story are complex - there was a real Baron Munchausen, an eighteenth century German soldier, whose exploits were fictionalised as a series of stories by Rudolph Raspe, and there are two previous filmings; a German one made in 1943 and a Czechoslovakian one made in 1961. For me, this is not quite on a par with Gilliam's incredible Brazil, but is just as visually dazzling and filled with cracking performances and escapist good humour. Unmissable.
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2/10
A gaudily wrapped empty box.
go-smileyriley25 June 2006
Apparently the producers spent $50,000,000 on this, and there is little justification for it. An extraordinary waste of money, Gilliam's film is not so much confusing as confused. It suffers from an identity crisis, treading a tightrope between children's fantasy, action and comedy, and falls off it repeatedly. As a comedy it's rarely funny, as an action film it's not suspenseful enough, and as a children's fantasy it fails to transport the viewer into its world (and is not really appropriate for children). The film's only redeeming quality is its set design; there is some merit in the baroque visuals. However, the combination of a poor script (improvised?), tedious plot and ham acting have joined forces to drown this misadventure.
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10/10
Must underrated film of all time
jsokol-314 December 2004
I've watched this film dozens of times and it never ceases to entertain me.

It has incredibly high production values, excellent acting, including Uma Thurman in perhaps her first role.

Of course some people won't like it... it's a bit whacky.

People who are humor-challenged won't get it.

The writing, dialogue and casting are all first rate and consistent through out.

The biggest problem was that it got buried, and under-released.

It deserves a lot more attention than it's gotten over the years.
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