Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Dragonfly (2002) [PG-13] **

A film review by James Berardinelli, for

Dragonfly is the latest supernatural thriller to pour all of its energy into the big, surprise twist at the conclusion. However, for anyone who has been paying minimal attention to the less-than-subtle clues left by director Tom Shadyac, the gimmicky resolution will be obvious before the movie is 30 minutes old. That means more than an hour of fidgeting, twiddling one's fingers, and waiting for the inevitable to happen, since Dragonfly has nothing to offer besides the ending and a few unintentional laughs along the way. This is a tedious and insulting motion picture. The only ones likely to be surprised by the payoff are those who understandably dozed off fifteen minutes into the proceedings.

Kevin Costner plays Dr. Joe Darrow, an all-around good guy who heads the Emergency Room at a Chicago hospital. By the time Dragonfly's opening credits have ended, Joe's pregnant wife, Emily (Susanna Thompson), has died in an avalanche in a remote part of Venezuela, where she was working as a Red Cross volunteer. There's no body, though... hmmm, I wonder if that's important? Joe, meanwhile, suffers from a debilitating affliction commonly called SSS (Steven Seagal Syndrome), which results in his walking stiffly, talking in a monotone, and never showing more than one or two facial expressions. After Emily's death, Joe's condition worsens, and he now begins to experience strange, supernatural occurrences, like his pet parrot saying Honey, I'm home in the middle of the night, then going berserk. Could Emily be trying to reach out to him from beyond the grave? Eventually, Joe decides that the answers lie in the cancer ward at the hospital, where his wife used to work. Kids there have been dreaming about Emily, and Joe tries to piece together their visions, convinced that, if he can solve the puzzle, he'll find... what? (We already know, but it takes forever for him to find it out.) To drag out the movie's interminable running length, he has meaningless conversations with his fun-loving, lesbian neighbor (Kathy Bates) - usually about her caring for the parrot while he's away, harasses a nun (Linda Hunt) who's literally half his height, and plans a trip to go white-water rafting.

Hollywood must have a tragically low opinion of the average viewer's intelligence to foist something this poorly written and ineptly directed upon us. (I know this isn't the first time I have made that observation.) Shadyac, who is responsible for the likes of Ace Ventura: Pet Detective and Patch Adams (he must have an affinity for terminally ill children), italicizes every clue in bright, bold letters. And, once you have figured out the ending, there remains nothing to do but visit the rest room, pick up a tub of popcorn, and envy the dozing person in front of you. With the exception of one sloppily-directed scene that uses a pair of stock boo! clich├ęs, Dragonfly never manages even a momentary fright, which is a bad sign for a ghost story.

The creepiest thing about this movie is watching Kevin Costner's zombie-like performance. One could easily imagine that, like Bruce Willis in The Sixth Sense (a movie that, to some extent, this one tries to emulate), Costner's character is actually dead - or at least he acts that way. Costner typically plays laconic individuals, but he takes low-key a few steps too far on this occasion - Joe is comatose. We're supposed to be invested in this character, not wondering if sticking a red-hot poker up his butt would generate a reaction. The movie spares its other actors any lingering shame by assuring that none of them makes more than a token appearance.

Dragonfly will undoubtedly trade heavily on its Sixth Sense similarities - the plodding male protagonist, the ghostly apparitions, and the gasp! ohmygod! ican'tbelievethisishappening! ending. But, much as I dislike M. Night Shyamalan's overrated Oscar nominee, it displays a level of craft that is entirely absent from Shadyac's misfire. This film is so badly made that it makes What Lies Beneath look like a masterpiece of supernatural suspense. The dragonfly is a sleek, graceful insect that doesn't deserve to have its reputation sullied by being associated with this pile of offal.

Labels: drama, fantasy, mystery, romance, thriller

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