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Everyone who had a talent for it lived Happily Ever After.
Baron Munchausen

Terry Gilliam's fourth solo directorial effort, from 1988. It's a paean to whimsy and the irrational. Like The Sandman, it's about how stories are more important than "what really happened" and rationality.

It is the Age of Reason, and there's a war on. Somewhere Austria-y is at war with The Grand Turk. In a city on the border of this war, a rag-tag theatre company is staging a dramatic retelling of the life of famous Tall Tale teller Baron Munchausen. The play is interrupted by the real Baron, who describes what really happened to cause this war — namely, the Turks are after him. The Baron has come to the city to die, but is convinced by Sally Salt (the head of the theatre company's daughter) to instead save the city from the onslaught of The Grand Turk, as well as the forces of reason and mediocrity. Wackiness ensues.

The film is something of a Mind Screw, as the viewer is never really sure if what's happening is "really happening" and whether or not that "really matters." Due to a troubled production, it was a notorious flop at the time (the combined losses for this and Ishtar are what caused Columbia Pictures to merge with TriStar), but it's beautifully mounted.

Provides examples of:

  • The Ace: Baron Munchausen.
  • And You Were There: Many of the actors in the theater troupe bear striking resemblances to people in the Baron's "real" adventures (an example of Acting for Two).
  • Axe Crazy: The King of the Moon gets like this if you mess with his wife.
    • The Baron himself with his sword in the theater.
    • Vulcan also gets like this. Given that the Baron was openly flirting with, and then kissing, his wife (and that Venus wasn't known for being the most faithful wife in Greek mythology), yeah.
  • Based on a True Story: Well, not really, but Munchhausen was a real person (who accumulated his tall tales while fighting as a mercenary, mostly for the Russians against the Turks).
  • Berserk Button: Doctor?! No doctors!
  • Big Little Man: The Baron and friends fall on a pit and see Vulcan, the God of Fire, towering above them. It's only when he pulls them out of the pit that they see that Vulcan is a head shorter than the Baron.
  • Bilingual Bonus: While Robin Williams spouts off the occasional random phrase in Italian as the King of the Moon, he was listed as "Ray D. Tutto," which in Italian (re di tutto) means "King of everything".
  • The Cameo: Sting shows up as the Heroic Soldier... who gets executed for being too good.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: the King of the Moon, aka Robin Williams.
  • Cool Horse: Bucephalus.
  • Cool Old Guy: The Baron and all of his friends (with the exception of Sally) at one point or another.
  • Covers Always Lie: The DVD cover includes Venus' face alongside Berthold's and the Baron's, and it lists Uma Thurman as one of the three main stars. In fact, Venus is a One-Scene Wonder with very little impact on the plot--even if Uma Thurman is the biggest name in the cast other than Robin Williams (who appears uncredited).
  • Crapsack World: The nameless European city under constant bombardment from the Turks is this.
  • Death Seeker: He doesn't admit it, but he enjoys death - it's implied he enjoys it because it makes for a good story.

 Baron: And that was only one of the many occasions on which I met my death, an experience which I don't hesitate strongly to recommend!

  • The Grim Reaper
  • Happily Ever After:"Everyone - who had a talent for it - lived happily ever after."
  • Hey, It's That Guy!: one of the Pythons as the Baron's right hand man, and Governor Swan as the Right Ordinary Horatio Jackson.
  • Improbable Aiming Skills: Adolphus pulls of some truly ludicrous shots.
  • Invisible Advertising: Where the U.S. release was concerned.
  • Knight Templar: Mr. Jackson
  • Lampshade Hanging: "This is precisely the sort of thing that nobody ever believes."
  • Large Ham: Everyone (excluding Sally).
  • The Munchausen: Trope Namer. (More specifically, based on the legends of the trope namer.)
  • Nested Story Reveal: turns out most of the movie was a story cooked up by Munchausen. Or maybe not.
  • Nipple-and-Dimed: A notable subversion. Although Venus' introduction shows some rather interesting anatomy at the bottom edge of the screen, the movie itself is rated PG. And did we mention that Venus is played by Uma Thurman?
  • One-Scene Wonder: Robin Williams as The King Of The Moon (credited as Ray D. Tutto) among others. The Baron doesn't stay in one place long enough for anyone to get more than one scene. Uma Thurman as Venus also stands out (though she is also part of the And You Were There actresses in the theatrical Book Ends).
    • It should also be noted that Robin Williams ' entire performance was ad-libbed. Let's hear it for cocaine!
  • Parental Bonus: The movie manages to get away with a PG rating in spite of some pretty saucy sexual innuendo in the scene with the King of the Moon, including the King calling the Queen a "puttana" (Italian for "whore") at one point. And the adults in the audience probably found Venus' introduction a lot more interesting than the kids.
  • Public Domain Character
  • The Reveal: It was all just a story being told in the theatre...
    • It's implied that Horatio Jackson was lying about a war, just to get the townspeople to ration money and food and pocket the excess. But that would be the rational explanation.
      • Except that we still see the clear remains of some sort of recent battle outside, even though the fighting had been going on when the story began. So the Mind Screw continues.
        • The battle was long gone. Hardly "recent".
  • Rule of Cool: Absolutely everything. A waltz in the air with the goddess of love, flying to the moon in a hot air balloon, climbing constellations, and that's just in the first hour.
    • Riding a cannonball, the one thing guaranteed in every version of the story of Baron Munchausen.
  • Rule of Funny: It's highly improbable that you could make a hot air balloon out of ladies' undergarments, but that doesn't mean Munchausen can't.
  • Sand Is Water: On the moon, at least.
  • Screwed by the Studio: The film received virtually no pre-launch publicity and appalling distribution.
  • Serious Business: "This isn't a joke! It's a wager!"
  • Spiritual Successor: Part of the "Dreamer Trilogy": Time Bandits represents childhood, Brazil represents adulthood, The Adventures of Baron Munchausen represents old age.
  • Swallowed Whole: The Baron and Sally get eaten by a whale, only to find a functioning inn, and a few of the Baron's old friends! And his horse, somehow.
  • Tall Tale: Subverted — it appears the Baron's stories were true, after all. Or are they? After all, the whole film is a Tall Tale told by Mr. Gilliam...
  • Tall Poppy Syndrome: Mr. Jackson has Sting executed for excessive heroism, because it's demoralizing to the mediocre people of the town.
  • Trickster Archetype: The Baron
  • Ugly Guy, Hot Wife: Vulcan and Venus. It's a bit of a Deconstructed Trope, as, though Vulcan is obviously proud of his beautiful young wife, it's just as clear that they're making each other miserable.
  • War Elephants: The Grand Turk uses elephants to propel his War Machines. The Baron gets them to back off with the strategic use of mice.
  • Wheel-O-Feet: Used when Berthold runs off to Austria for a bottle of wine.
  • Where's the Fun In That?

 Baron Munchausen: What's this?

Vulcan: Oh, this is our prototype. RX, uh, Intercontinental, radar-sneaky, multi-warheaded nuclear missile.

Baron Munchausen: Ah! What does it do?

Vulcan: Do? Kills the enemy. [snip] Well, you see, the advantage is you don't have to see one single one of them die. You just sit comfortably thousands of miles away from the battlefield and simply press the button.

Berthold: Well, where's the fun in that?

  • Xenophone: The Sultan's "organ" is attached to a cage full of prisoners, and each key pokes a certain prisoner with a given pointy object to get the right tone of scream.
  1. "But you can call me Ray."