Family Circus

You have to wonder about a circus that has a mission statement. Devoid of midgets, animals, and freaks, Cirque du Soleil is no ordinary spectacle. No girls hanging from their hair, no men shooting out of cannons, no dancing elephants. Just a bunch of highly flexible acrobats clad in brightly colored spandex, performing astounding feats to mystical new-age music. On perpetual tour the French-Canadian concern has become a frighteningly successful franchise, presenting eight separate shows simultaneously on three continents, at last count. Their mission: "Invoke, provoke, and evoke the imagination, the senses, and the emotions of people around the world."

Furthering those attempts, they've now turned less auspiciously to the realm of film. Big film. Le cirque's latest creation is the IMAX 3-D movie Cirque du Soleil: Journey of Man. A saccharine heavy-handed look at the evolution of man, the 38-minute work commences with a baby (the "Universal Child") spewed forth during the Big Bang and ends with an old man escorting a group of children through Berlin's Brandenburg Gate. And, of course, during each of six key scenes reflecting the beginnings of life and birth, childhood, youth, adulthood, mature adulthood, and maturity, Cirque du Soleil performers are there writhing and bouncing every tedious step of the way. A few examples: the annoying clownish flounes portraying the instincts that guide the boy through his early life; the bungees symbolizing freedom of youth as they soar through the air suspended by only a cord; or the menacing stiltman who tempts the young man with wealth and power.

As the boy now transformed into a sour old curmudgeon is joined by a ragamuffin in his marble and gilt parlor to watch an uplifting dance performance, the story seems to culminate in the important life lesson that anyone who has accumulated wealth and power must do it by sacrificing his inner child and goodness knows what else. The old geezer tells the eager group of kiddies who suddenly surround him that dreams, faith, and love make anything possible. "It is your journey," he says earnestly, "but it is our destination." Gag.


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