Monday, September 7, 2015

The Adventures of Baron Münchausen

By varying accounts, Terry Gilliam's 1988 film The Adventures of Baron Munchausen is either one of the greatest fantasy films of all time, or an epic failure of almost cosmic proportions. There's no question that Gilliam's ambitious production plans clashed with the expectations of the film's producers, and that the set was -- as it often is in one of his films -- chaotic at times. Commercially, it was a failure (failure being defined as costing much more to make than it made in profits), but in retrospect, it remains one of his best and most delightful films.

And one might have expected no less -- Münchausen, after all, was born from disaster, grew via prodigious invention and prodigious plagiarism, and was stranded for some time on the nursery bookshelf along with such congenial fellows as Gulliver's Travels and Robinson Crusoe -- none of which really belonged there. There was, in fact, a "real" Baron Münchausen, whose lively tales of his experiences in the Russian army in two of its campaigns agains the Turks gained modest fame. Then came Rudolf Erich Raspé, a man of some repute as a legitimate historian, who'd landed a job watching over a collection of gold medallions, some of which were later found missing. Fleeing from his employer, he landed on his feet in England, where -- as a member of the Royal Society -- he still had some friends of note. He secured a job overseeing mines in Cornwall, and while there wrote and published the first of his Münchausen tales, later adding more. His death in Ireland in 1794 (his grave is on the estate of Muckross House, hereditary home of the Guinness family) did nothing to stop fresh editions, and more stories, from accumulating in Münchausen's name.

It was a perfect set-up for Gilliam, who could play off the idea of a "real" Baron against a theatrical one, on all kinds of levels, and pick and choose from the canonical (and not-so-canonical) stories at will. As the Baron, he cast the brilliant Canadian actor John Neville, and as his three remarkable assistants he chose fellow Python Eric Idle (Berthold), Charles McKeown (as Adolphus -- he also wrote the script), and Jack Purvis as Gustavus. Sarah Polley (as Sally Salt) and Uma Thurman (as the goddess Venus) made their film débuts here, and Robin Williams does a brilliant (and uncredited) turn as the King of the Moon. It's a fantasy about fantasy, and the politics of the repression of fantasy. In a brilliant exchange between the Baron and the "Right Ordinary Horatio Jackson" (Jonathan Pryce), the gauntlet is thrown:
Jackson: "You, sir, seem to have a weak grasp of reality!"
The Baron: "Your 'reality,' sir, is lies and balderdash, and I'm delighted to say that I have no grasp of its whatsoever!"

23 comments:

  1. The Adventures of Baron Munchausen is a fantasy and is definitely an interesting and hilarious movie with its crazy tale and characters. The Baron has unique servants, who are comical to say the least. One of them is incredibly strong, and another one runs so fast that he walks around with weights to slow him down. Then there is a man with a rifle who has incredible eye sight and a short man with huge ears which can hear anything and lungs that can blow anything away. Throughout the story the Baron and Sally, a little girl who was a stowaway on the Baron’s hot air ship, go on adventures in search of his servants in order to save the town in which they live, which is being attacked by the Turks. Just as in Lucian’s True History, the main character gets swallowed and trapped inside of a sea monster and also travels to the moon. When on the moon we meet the King of the Moon, or as the king likes to say the “King of Everything.” He has to be the weirdest character, whom I have ever seen, because the king’s head is always trying to escape from its body. What is even funnier is that when the king’s head is floating by itself, it has an entirely different personality than when the head is attached to its body. The characters are so outrageous that it makes it entertaining. Baron Munchausen eventually gathers all of his servants, ends the war, and gets shot and dies. However, it is all just a story which he is relating, or at least that is what I think. I found the ending rather confusing. It made me question what really happened in the movie and what were just his stories. For example, when he finished the story they went outside to see that the Turks were not there. Did the Baron defeat the Turks or was he just telling a story and the Turks had already been defeated a while ago? It was making me question the reality of this story. Even though the characters and his adventures were insane, I found it to be a funny and exciting movie, and it made me wonder what was going to happen next. (Amanda Lussier)

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  2. Gilliam’s take on the Adventures of Baron Münchausen is random to say the least. The screenplay was smart and witty, with jokes that takes an attentive viewer to enjoy. It’s an interesting conflict of the rational vs. fantasy that comes along with the Baron. I really enjoyed Gilliam’s commentary on the character of the Ordinary Horatio Jackson. The character stated that rationality will bring in an age of progress and science. However, in reality the age of enlightenment came about when a brave few dared to think irrational and challenge the ideas of the time. Also, I thought it was very smart to have the same actors portray servants of Baron Münchausen in the play be the exact same as the ones in reality. It leads to the idea that everyone is capable of being as magical and special as there imaginations allow them to be. As for the character of Baron Münchausen goes, I did enjoy his tender moments where it shows the connection where if you allow yourself to stop believing, you’re spirit dies. When the movie ends, viewers are asking if what they witness was all a lie. Or trying to find an explanation to how the Turks were defeated? Maybe even questioning if this whole time that was the "real" Baron Münchausen. While it is true, the movie was very random it is also a movie who’s own imagination you have to admire. (Cindy Xon)

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  3. The film The Adventures of Baron Munchausen was interesting to say the least. It started off with a play about Baron Munchausen, but the real Baron Munchausen comes in and starts telling his own story. He captivates the audience with his fantastical story, and tells every detail of his journeys. I saw a lot of similarities between Lucian’s True History and this film. Both were unrealistic and spontaneous when it came to the adventures the characters embarked on, and they both kept the audience curious as to what would happen next. At one point during this film Baron Munchausen, Sally, and his servants get swallowed by a sea monster, quite like in Lucian’s True History when the characters get swallowed by a whale. Not only that, but they both take a trip to the moon and have wild adventures there. In the Baron’s adventures he is is faced with death multiple times, which he looks to with little fear. I think he sees death as an extraordinary land where anything can happen and he wants to join it. He likes to think creatively and ignore reality, because reality is “lies and balderdash” to him. The reality of life is boring and he wishes to live in a more fantastical world of “cucumber trees”. I found this to be an interesting concept because it is almost true to our lives today. The world we live in can be boring sometimes, but with an open, creative mind you can make it as wild as you want, and that’s what I think Munchausen does with his stories. Unlike a documentary, you have to think more creatively when watching this to keep up with the zany things going on, but I did like this film’s ingenuity and hope to watch another film in class soon. (Elizabeth Cook)

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  4. The Adventure of Baron Munchausen is a fantasy film/book that actually had me laughing at some parts. When the king of the moon has his head separate from his body and is still moving. The fact is that its fantasy so you have to enjoy it. Baron and sally go on this adventure together.Baron wanted to save the town from being defeated. Sally and Baron find Berthold on the moon in a cage. The Queen has a crush on Baron and in one scene her body is with the king and her head is with Baron and supposedly hes tickling her feet. Both, Lucian's true history and The adventure of Baron Munchausen are similar, they were both fantasy and both made me think they were going to be boring. They both explore different things. Baron explores the moon, inside a volcano, inside of a sea creature, and explored being thrown into a whirlpool by a jealous God. Lucian's true history explores lands until they get blown by the wind,where they come to an island. This island is home to a river of wine filled with fish and bears. The Adventures of Baron Munchausen was very interesting and the film caught my eye and opened my imagination. It makes you realize that you just need to be creative and enjoy the humor. I enjoyed watching this film and want to see even more funny ones. (Jaimee Barrett)

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  5. The film of The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, was a very interesting, hilarious tale. It was about Baron on an adventure with Sally to locate his servants. One of the servants had really big ears with the biggest pair of lungs. He was able to blow anything away and hear miles away. Another servant runs incredibly fast so fast that he walks around with balls and chains to hold him down. Another servant is incredible strong, and then there is the servant that has a rifle and has incredible eye sight and can shoot any target. Baron and Sally go about their adventure on a hot air ship. A place they go to is to the moon. Where there is a head floating that calls himself the “King of everything”. I found him incredibly funny, the entire time he is trying to avoid his body. When his body grabs its head it attaches itself and he hates it, and all he is trying to do is get away. It’s so funny and weird at the same because, the body and the floating head have two complete different personalities. Baron does find his servants and they defeat the Turks. It was a very interesting story I liked it, using your imagination is a very comical tool. It can be very entertaining I am looking forward to more tales.
    (Jesenia Martinez )

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  6. Terry Gilliam’s film obviously does not go by rationality as it is based on a play that makes fun of a German aristocrat Baron Munchausen who turns out to be a real character in the play, but who is actually taken from the real-life Baron Munchausen, Hieronymus Karl Friedrich, Freiherr von Munchhausen who lived from May 1720-Febrauary 1797. Gilliam immediately sort of makes fun of the time setting as he opens it by zooming into a statue that reads, “The Age of Reason.” In this film, Baron Munchausen is an old man who perceives the world around him as unbearable and problematic which leads him to tell his own side of the story which he seems to believe but in a more exaggerated, heroic, and comical way. Why? Maybe so we shift away from reality into a more imaginative and fantastical story in order to find the enjoyment in doing so, as the Baron would agree when he exclaims to Horatio Jackson, the city official, “Your reality sir, is lies and balderdash and I’m delighted to say that I have no grasp of it whatsoever.” The way in that Baron Munchausen narrates his story is to show us that he is the only, unstoppable hero who can control his own reality as well as his own fate and who can use anything and anyone to his own advantage in order to stop the war against the Turks. I think that the reason Gilliam portrays the Baron in this way is to tell us that we, ourselves are the only ones in control of visualizing ourselves and our world in a more creative, magical way and that this is the importance of reading fantastical tales, so that we make rationality more comical and fun. All in all, through his film, Terry Gilliam is telling his audience that tall tales and heroism are important as magnifies our logical perspectives because it makes us see our lives, tragic situations, or the world more fantastical and humorous so we don’t get stuck in our rational way of thinking.
    (Kathy Mateos)

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  7. The Adventure of Baron Munchausen is a very whimsical movie, full of surprises left and right. This movie is nothing like any of the movies in theaters now a day. I mean I almost find it comically the idea of going to see something like this at the movie theater. However, I assume this would be something great in its own time period. I enjoyed how they included the little girl; I thought she was a very critical part. I enjoyed how she seemed to be the only one who believes in him and even escaped on the ship with him. The effects in this movie I thought were pretty advanced for there time period. I was also surprised at how engaged I was in this movie especially in the scene including when the peoples on the moons head came off and there body and mind had two different emotions. The ending was so interesting I found myself doing mental gymnastics trying to figure out what was real, what was fake and just putting all of the pieces together. I then realized that’s the point. You are supposed to be confused and I definitely was. There was also subtle humor in there that I found very funny. Comments from the baron himself, some from the servants and especially from the people on the moon were all very funny with many background meanings that are not for kids. Overall this movie is one I enjoyed and look forward to many more of this time.
    (Gabrielle Demers)

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  8. I think the character of Baron Munchausen is dramatically exaggerated. As the whole movie was a fantasy, portraying him as "normal" would make the movie somewhat boring. Barons character makes the movie unpredictable and exciting. I honestly was not sure if I would like it or not. I liked the movie overall because it was weird and because some parts didn't make sense. That to me is funny. Also, I still do not get how he came back to life or became "undead"? Again, fantasy!
    (Cherie Smith)

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  9. The Adventures of Baron Munchausen like previously stated multiple times was an interesting film. We watched as the Baron overcomes different situations with Sally and company while he comes into contact with floating heads, dances and falls Inlove with Venus, and plays cards with the grim reaper. Sally, I believed was an important piece of the film because she brought a sense of reality and continuously reminded the Baron as well as the audience of the main reason they had set out on their journey which was to save their town. This film is definitely filled with the unexpected where you can't help but laugh at how crazy different scenes were. (Amanda Belluscio)

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  10. Terry Gilliam’s The Adventures of Baron Münchausen was a very intriguing film that kept me amused throughout the whole duration of the movie. This is because of its random nature and extreme fantasy. I liked how several aspects of the movie related to Lucian’s True History. In both of these stories at some points they make you question if it is actually true. The past of our world is also something that I haven’t directly experienced and my knowledge about it is based on stories that I have been told. Given that these two stories take place in a time frame hundreds of years ago, these stories could very well be true as well. And there could very well be people with detachable heads on the moon and I just don’t know that because I’ve never been there but some of the parts of these stories just don’t seem reasonable. But the more worldly occurrences in this film like the people living inside of the whale, and a horse that levitates out of the water maintain the audience’s awareness that it is in fact fantasy. The characters that could run really fast or possessed super strength really made me think about what life would be like if people really had these traits. If everyone had these traits then it wouldn’t be significant, but if certain people could they would be very highly valued and probably be very famous in our world. Qualities like this would make humans more valuable and decrease the need for technology to do the work. With first thought about these type of qualities I thought it would greatly improve the value of mankind and help humans feel more valuable because of these traits that would come to feel like second nature. (Victoria Costello)

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  11. The Adventures of Baron Munchausen was a very interesting film. I feel I enjoyed this film because of the fictional sense of humor that was placed throughout the film. I may say certain scenes I did catch my self laughing out loud! From the crazy characters we met along the way on Baron and Sally's trip to help save her town made the film that much amusing. Going back to the film some examples are how Berthold had the ability to run extremely fast and going to the moon how the king and queens heads could be removed from their bodies! it was all very interesting! Overall, this was a great fantasy movie!

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  12. Gilliam's film was extravagant and unbelievable on a short budget which was a great feat. This film was comparable to Lucian's True History because it focuses on the extreme and unreal with the characters having unattainable skills like super speed and strength. The Baron and Sally travel to the moon as well as in the center of the earth. True History is a story that intends to poke fun at ancient stories however whereas the story of the Baron is meant as pure fantasy. The Baron is meant to entertain with the oddly obscure and it achieves that easily. Although different in intention These two stories share similarities and highlight good uses of science fiction. The best part of Baron Munchausen was the deception of the story within a story. Going through the story with Sally was very interesting and the plot twist at the end when the Baron is in fact still on the stage is a great point in the film. The ups and downs of this film keep the audience on their feet and allow for anything to happen. From the moon to the almost death of the Baron, the does not cease to entertain. This movie was resourceful and was accompanied by exceptional acting to make it entertaining and worthwhile. This along with Lucian's True History was great stories that deserved to be looked at from an adult point of view and not simply thrust on children as science fiction tends to do. Overall this movie was exciting and allowed me to look past any skepticisms about science fiction and enjoy this film immensely.

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  13. The Adventures of Baron Munchause was a very unique film. Originally I wasn't quite sure if I was going to like the film but at some parts I actually enjoyed the film and was laughing. I can see the similarities with what we already read and the film which makes me think that the novels and films we'll be reading and watching in this class will all some how relate to each other. The point of these works of literature is to get our imagination flowing and random is good and can be really entertaining. I have to say I'm really enjoying reading and watching films on Fantasy and Science Fiction because it's different then any other genre I've worked with.

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  14. I personally enjoyed this movie and I liked how at the beginning of the movie there was a play going on about the Barons life. The Baron would then interrupt the play and tell everyone his way of his life. It made the movie more interesting how the creator flashed back to show us the stories that the Baron was telling. I thought the way they made a hot air balloon so Baron Münchausen could leave the town was an interesting part of the movie. It was interesting because I would of never thought that the fabric he was using would work as a hot air baloon. Also the fact that Sally was in the balloon and Baron didn’t know it until he threw the thing she was in over the side and noticed she was there because she was holding on for dear live. Then the would experience all these different things together was cool. I liked how Sally wanted to save the town but the Baron was sure that the town was alright without him there, which was wrong because it wasn’t ok at all. A good part was how in the end Barron would come in contact with all the people he knew earlier in his life, and also how they would all defeat the Turks together. That was a great ending to the movie. Kelly Batzinger

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  15. The Adventures of Baron Munchausen had a lot of imaginative content; from people with super powers to moon kings with detachable heads. I generally do not like movies like this. I usually find them stupid and not funny. This movie was not as bad as I expected it to be. I enjoyed using my imagination along with the movie. I especially liked the bond that was formed between Sally and Baron. The bond was similar to how children in the real world act towards imaginative things. They believe that they are true even when they are told they aren't. Children also care for and love the characters involved in the stories. Sally cared about the Baron and wanted him to be happy and be successful. The movie was written well and was enjoyable for many groups of people. The imagination throughout the story was well thought out and displayed well.

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  16. This movie was a bit outrageous. It was actually pretty similar to the style of Lucian and it was pretty unrealistic. It was funny at times, but it was such cheesy humor. When I laughed at this movie I felt like my grandfather told me a really bad joke and I laughed out of pity. It was funny, but just so weird to me. And it was a strong fantasy story because everything was so unrealistic and exaggerated. The part when he is just catching the canons in the air just made me think to myself, "seriously"? It was pretty good, I just cant take it seriously at all. Its so goofy and I cant even imagine how these actors wanted to be apart of something so silly. Its hard for me to like movies and this was one I had a hard time watching. I could see how people would like it though. Its pure entertainment.

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  17. To be honest...prior to watching this film, my expectations weren't set incredibly high. I'm actually glad I was given the opportunity to watch this cult classic as I was delightfully entertained throughout its entirety. The Adventures of Baron Munchausen presents a reality more outlandish than what I could ever dream of. It reminded me of a Dali painting. From using a canonball as a means of transportation to traveling to the moon in a hot air balloon made of women's underwear, most of the Baron's grandiose adventures were out of this world!

    It was comical how many times the Baron escaped death by and in some instances just by a thread of hair especially when Berthold arrives with the wine that was put up for wager, sparing the Baron's head from being decapitated just before the last granule of sand clinks and spirals its way down the hourglass.

    I was also surprised to have recognized a few actors I've seen in previous movies like Uma Thurman in her famous role as Beatrix Kiddo in Kill Bill and Oliver Reed as Proximo in Gladiator. I thought Robin Williams was a riot in his stellar performance (no pun intented) as the King of the Moon. I thought the concept of a detachable head shackled to a body, so to speak, was an interesting idea. When attached, the King of the Moon is ill-mannered and behaves like a glutton, but when free, the head is rather cordial and wordly. This dynamic reminded me of the constant power struggle between the forces of the id and super-ego that is ingrained in the human psyche. Perhaps this was Gilliam's creative way of hinting that the primal instincts of Man ultimately govern rational thought?

    It may be impossible to ignore the sporadic sequence of events and the less than cutting edge visual effects but I think its flaws added to the appeal for me. Overall, it is a movie unlike any other I've seen and belongs to a genre all to itself.

    (Ian Isabelle)

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  18. I personally enjoyed this film very much. It was funny, exciting, adventurous, and imaginary. Even though, I probably would not have watched this if I was on my own, I am glad I did. The story line and scenes in this movie is very unrealistic but while watching that is not what ur mind is on. For example, When he is on the moon and he is still alive and able to breathe, or the number on times that Baron was going to get caught then something magically happens and he escapes. The movie is very similar to the other story Lucian, of how unrealistic it is. This movie portrayed a sense of love and happiness toward characters. When Sally goes with Baron, they build a relationship throughout the movie, this relationship showed true friendship, even though it was with a man and a little girl, they both watched each others backs and wanted to see each other happy at the end.

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  19. The Adventures of Baron Muchausen, in my opinion was an interesting film. When the movie started I was not sure on how it was going to be but by the end of the film I was interested in it and enjoyed watching it. Gilliam incorporated humor to his film and I caught my self laughing at scenes. I found it amusing how the film started as a play telling the story of Baron and then went to almost like a reality with Baron and Sally’s adventure and then back to a play telling the story of Baron. The Adventures of Baron Muchausen was a good example for the “fantasy” category, it was an attention grabber with humor and allowed the viewer to see how someone’s mind can make up extraordinary things. (Kelsey Wood)

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  20. The Adventures of Baron Muchausen, in my honest opinion was film that was probably written for children. I did enjoy the film, it had some funny parts to it.When the movie first started i didn't think i was going to enjoy it,it seemed kinda childish and unrealistic. It reminds me of the first movie we watched about Lucian, because to me they were both unrealistic.My favorite part of the movie was how some of the characters had superpowers. It was fun to use my imagination like i did when i was a kid. This movie was definitely Science Fiction and it was definitely more on the fiction side. I'm glad we got to watch this movie in class because i did enjoy it and i never would have watched on my own. (Mikayla Wood)

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  21. The Adventures of Baron Muchausen, in my honest opinion was totally ridiculous. The film was filled with cheesy humor and really cheap special effects, like cardboard sets moving on tracks and black screens and clothing to simulate a floating head. I liked that the story line was consistent throughout the movie, the longer the movie went on the more silly it became. When the actual Baron Muchausen burst into the theater and interrupted the play to tell everyone what really happened was unexpected but i loved that the story had gone from a silly exaggerated play to follow the Baron on a crazy adventurous mission. although the entire film was cheesy, i felt that my 2 year old daughter would get more out of it than i did.
    (K.Overly)

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  22. I really enjoyed The Adventures of Baron Munchausen. It was very comical and creative, yet it made me view things differently realistically. In the beginning of the film it started off as a play and the Baron got really passionate about it and went a little insane trying to show everyone what he was really like and what really happen, even though everyone believed he was dead and no one knew it was the real Baron Munchausen performing. He then takes us back to a time where he almost got his head chopped off by the king/master. There were a few servants with "super powers" one was very short but with extremely big ears and could hear things far away that other people couldn't hear. Then there was an extremely strong servant, a servant that had very large lungs and was able to blow things extremely hard and cause wind, another with extremely fast speed, so fast actually that he had to walk around with weights of balls and chains to stop him from being so fast. And the last one with a rifle and eyesight no one can believe. Well, the king/master needed something to be delivered to him on a certain time frame and told Baron it needed to be done or else his head would be chopped off. He gathered the servants and had the one with the speed go get it for the king. As he runs a little late he has the servant with the good eyesight to see miles and miles away as to where he is and so the other servant used his powers to wake him up from miles away and was able to make it on time so that Baron wouldn't get his head chopped off. Later on in the story as the play turns into complete chaos, he then meets a little girl named Sally who he ends up protecting and taking care of her. Sally admires Baron and asked him numerous of times "who are you" due to her curiosity of trying to figure out who he really was because she found him extremely interesting. During their journey to the moon and struggling through many obstacles together, Sally never wanted him to be alone on his journey's because she felt that he needed someone and was very stubborn and determined about that, so Baron felt it was necessary to protect her. They meet the headless man on the moon where he was very emotional, his head was very nice but his body was extremely mean and occasionally his head would get attached to his body again and he stayed extremely mean until the head was detached again. Sally then saw Baron with her own eyes fly across on a cannon ball to defeat the others and protect his people. That's when she really knew he truly was the incredible Baron Munchausen. But, no one believed her when she tried to explain to everyone. In the beginning of the film I thought Baron Munchausen was completely insane, but at the end of the film I realized that maybe he's really proud and passionate about what he went through and just wants people to know the truth and really know the kind of person he really is. He has quite the imagination and creativity I must say, like the air ship "balloon" that was made out of females underwear was quite the catch. But you can see that after all maybe he's not AS crazy after all. He has a good heart and the bond him and Sally had was incredible, despite the age difference. They truly became best friends and admire one another. I really liked the storyline of this. Very creative and comical. Definitely took my mind on a journey. (Samantha Nunes)

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  23. The Adventures of Baron Münchausen was a pretty interesting movie, and for it’s time I think it was pretty good. There were a lot of great science fiction ideas and themes throughout the movie, including Baron riding a mortar into the Turkish base and then catching a cannonball for the ride back. The idea of the detachable heads was clever too, and I really enjoyed Robin Williams as King of the Moon, he was definitely my favorite character and I even chuckled at some of his jokes and voices. I also really enjoyed Baron’s acquaintances when they had scenes, Berthold and Gustavus were pretty funny and cool characters. If Gilliam had remade the movie today with a bigger budget and had a more defined target market (targeting kids or adults specifically) it would been a bigger success in the box office. I feel like it was too much of a mix of adult jokes and kid-like scenes, if they had a solid amount of just one rather than a mix of the two, it probably would have done better. (Brad Auger)

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