Friday, September 19, 2014

Robin Williams: A Look Back

     Good old Robin Williams, I think the most unhappy person in the world could easily have his frown turned upside down thanks to him. Well, as many of us know, Robin Williams passed away on August 11th 2014, and I wanted to take a moment to just look back on his career and reflect on the impact he left. I’m not going to make this a full tribute covering everything he did, this isn’t going to be a documentary style post, it’s just a short tribute to this talented actor and a truly wonderfully man. Robin Williams always felt like a member of the family to me, I grew up with so many of his movies, and he always had this genuinely warm and charming presence. It always came across to me that Robin Williams had a mission in life to bring joy to anyone and everyone around him, at least that was my impression of him.

      Technically speaking, I was first introduced to Robin Williams when he supplied the voice of the Genie of the Lamp from Disney’s 1992 classic “Aladdin”. Too this day, the genie is still one of my all time favorite animated characters, and personally, I think it's one of the greatest characters the Robin ever portrayed in a movie. The way Williams brought him to life with fast wit, character impersonations and improvised lines before the animation was even added was just spot on. But he wasn't just funny, he was also quiet subtle and charismatic. Williams definitely made this character his own, and in a sense, this character always seemed to be the embodiment of how I viewed Williams in real life. He seemed like a real life cartoon character that would always switch between subtlety and side splitting comedy.

      Interestingly enough, I never cared for any of the other animated characters that Williams did voice work for. He supplied the voice of a bat character in the animated 1992 picture “FernGully – The Last Rain Forest”, and for some reason he didn’t have that same charisma and charm he had when supplying the voice of the Genie. However, in the 2001 motion picture “A. I. Artificial Intelligence”, Williams supplied the voice of a character called Dr. Know, it was a brief scene, but I have to say, it was the best thing about that whole movie.

       Now obviously I didn’t know who the actor was when I watched “Aladdin”, however I did grow up with two other movies in the 90’s that allowed me to put a face on him. The first was “Flubber” from 1997 and the other was “Jumanji” from 1995. Neither are particularly great movies, but I do still find myself watching them from time to time because they have a strong nostalgia factor, and Williams still supplied his usual charm and hummer in both films. “Jumanji” in particular was one of my favorite movies that I watched all the time as a kid and I think it features one of Williams’s most versatile performances. He was funny and witty as usual, but he was also quiet tense and even a little serious.

      The big movie that made me a hard core Robin Williams fan was the 1993 motion picture “Mrs. Doubtfire”. In this film, Williams plays a divorced dad who disguises himself as an old house maid in order to spend time with his kids. This is was without a doubt one of his funniest movies and it perfectly demonstrated how talented he was as an actor, and a master of making funny voices. Much like “Jumanji”, Williams displays a wide range of acting talents ranging from emotional, to cheerful, to heart breaking, to laugh out loud funny. After I saw this movie, I had to get my hands on any one of his comedies I could find, and I also had to start watching his improve shows. He really was a master of improve comedy because he always did something new for each show, it was never the same act repeated again.

     Once I started middle school, I saw another Robin Williams movie that introduced me to his more dramatic and passionate side. The 1989 motion picture titled “Dead Poets Society” changed the way I looked at Robin Williams. He was no longer just a funny comedian, he truly was an inspiring and talented actor. For those of you who haven’t seen this movie, it’s a prep school drama, and Williams plays a teacher who teaches his students to view the world in a new light. It’s a powerful, emotional, and deeply touching experience that really just needs to be viewed on its own because I can’t do it justice. I’ll just say that if you’re a Robin Williams fan, do yourself a favor and see this movie because I honestly think it’s his best film.

      After words, I started to pay attention to his more dramatic movies like “Awakenings” from 1990, and his Oscar winning motion picture “Good Will Hunting” from 1997. This is yet another strength of Robin Williams that I just loved, he could be so versatile, going from really funny and cheery, to really dramatic and humble. Many of his movies like “Good Morning Vietnam” and “What Dreams May Come” also struck that perfect balance between light hearted fun and down to earth drama, and that’s when Robin was at his best. Like any great actor, he did have his share of bad movies too, and his latter day comedies like “License to Wed” from 2007 and “RV” from 2006 were some of his absolute worst. Thankfully he also had some really good supporting roles in films like “Night at the Museum” and “Happy Feet”.

       If you’d like to know how I feel about some of his movies in more detail, I’ve posted three full movie reviews as of the time I’m posting this tribute. I posted a full review of “Good Morning Vietnam” back in March 2011, I posted a full review of the Disney sequel “Aladdin and the King of Thieves” back in August 2012 and I recently posted a full review of “What Dreams May Come” back in August 2014.

      It’s always sad when someone dies, but the thing that makes this celebrity death all the movie tragic is that it was an apparent suicide, which resulted from depression. It really breaks my heart that such a sweet and funny guy like Robin Williams would be in such a troubled state of mind, and it’s even harder to except when so many of his movies like “What Dreams May Come”, “Patch Adams” and “Dead Poets Society” revolved around the seriousness of suicide. I really hope and pray that Williams rests in peace, because he was a truly gifted and respectful man that brought so much joy to my life and obviously the lives of millions. He will certainly be missed, and he’ll be remembered for years to come. Weather he was entertaining us with his standup comedy, or touching our hearts in one of his drama’s, one thing remains certain, at least for me. Robin Williams was one of kind, someone special and I feel so privileged to have grown up with so many of his wonderful films, shows and I sincerely hope that the following generation of movie goers with be as fortunate.

                                                       Robin Williams (1951 - 2014)

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