"Cirque du Soleil: Worlds Away 3D" uses a rather standard boy-meets-girl plot to take the audience on a fanciful journey to a land of acrobats and artists who look at gravity as more of a suggestion than a law.
Mia (Erica Linz) finds herself at a motley circus where the main attraction is the man (Igor Zaripov) on a flying trapeze. Their eyes meet, a mistake for the aerialist during his show, and he plummets to the center ring floor. He's not killed, but he is pulled down into a sand vortex that eventually captures Mia and transports her to a magical world.
Her journey takes her through a wonderland of odd characters doing incredible things that were first seen in various incarnations of the Cirque du Soleil that have entertained audiences with physics-defying live shows for almost three decades.
The film cobbles together performances from many of those shows -- "Viva Elvis," "The Beatles Love," "O," "Ka," "Mystere," etc. -- into a magical journey of lost and found love.
This mix-and-match technique is held together through Linz's expressive face, since her performance is limited to only a few words. With a look, she becomes the emotional conduit for the audience as she goes from confusion to captivation.
At times, she's a tenuous link. But that is more the result of the thin plot line by director and writer Andrew Adamson. It isn't a surprise that there is an ambiguous story line -- that is often a trait of a live Cirque performance.
There are positive and negatives of bringing the stage performance to the screen. It opens up the stage show to an audience who may have never had the opportunity, or the finances, to see one of the live shows. And, it's the best seat in the house as Adamson often sends the camera flying through the air with the greatest of ease to put the viewer as close as possible to the incredible acrobatics. Add in the 3D, and the film comes excitingly close to being at a live performance.
Seeing these acts on screen takes away the fear factor that always exists with a live production when there's at least a chance performers could slip or fall.
This is not the kind of movie you go see for its plot or character development. This is a visual spectacular that blends beautiful music with performances that seem almost humanly impossible. The choreography alone in one sequence where there's a battle on a vertical wall has the meticulous movements usually reserved for an expensive watch.
"Cirque du Soleil: Worlds Away 3D" should be appreciated like an abstract painting. It's beautiful to look at, but it isn't fully appreciated until you add in your own ideas about what all of the images are trying to say.
"Cirque du Soleil: Worlds Away 3D," Unrated. Stars Erica Linz, Igor Zaripov, John Clarke. Directed by Andrew Adamson. Running time: 97 minutes. Grade: B
TV and movie critic Rick Bentley can be reached at (559) 441-6355, firstname.lastname@example.org or @RickBentley1 on Twitter. Read his blog at fresnobeehive.com.