Review by Dustin Putman
1½ stars out of 4
A lame attempt to draw in the same audience that went wild over 1999's
"The Sixth Sense," "Dragonfly" is a supernatural mystery that doesn't
know whether it wants to be a suspenseful horror movie or a weepy
melodrama. It ends up being neither, and fails at both endeavors.
For Kevin Costner (2001's "3000 Miles to Graceland"), a once-prosperous
actor who has suffered as of late due to some poor career moves, this
nonsensical rubbish is not a step in the right direction. And for
director Tom Shadyac (1998's reviled "Patch Adams," 1995's "Ace Ventura:
When Nature Calls"), this is simply further proof that he wears his
drippy heart on his sleeve and his mind in the trash can as a filmmaker.
Even before the opening credits are over, Dr. Joe Darrow (Kevin Costner)
is grief-stricken when his pregnant physician wife, Emily (Susanna
Thompson), in Venezuela working as a Red Cross volunteer, dies in
a tragic bus accident. Because Emily was such a valiant do-gooder,
Joe's friends assure him that she is in a better place. Joe, a devout
atheist, doesn't believe their words of solace until he begins receiving
ominous signs that Emily may be trying to contact him from another
world. For one, the ill children in her hospital ward start speaking
of seeing her at a rainbow during near-death experiences, and the
visions Joe gets are just too real for everything to be in his mind.
Absurdly written by David Seltzer (1998's "My Giant"), Brandon Camp,
and Mike Thompson, "Dragonfly" is a sluggishly paced brain-teaser
that, once the token "big" twist arrives at the end, adds up to frustratingly
little. Before the amazingly sloppy third act, which causes the first
two to make even less sense, the film runs on a straight and narrow
line of being neither overtly bad nor remotely good. It is one of
those movies that is just "there," with no scenes or story developments
arriving to make things interesting.
The half-hearted scares director Shadyac occasionally injects into
the film are all for nil, since Joe is allegedly trying to be contacted
by an inherently good woman who loved him. No rhyme or reason is made
about why, in the process, she doesn't just find a way to tell him
her message, rather than pussyfoot around with faint, obscure spook tactics.
Kevin Costner stole the show in his last picture, the underrated "3000
Miles to Graceland," but he acts like a piece of wood here. As the
haunted Joe, Costner broods his way through the film with no other
apparent emotions. His relationship with Emily, cursorily shown in
flashbacks, lacks the unrequited love and devotion necessary for the
story to resonate within the viewer.
Save for another effective performance by Kathy Bates (2001's "Rat
Race"), as Joe's caring neighbor friend, the supporting roles are
haphazardly executed, each one popping in and out of the movie at
such a clip rate that none are developed or receive closure. Linda
Hunt (1997's "The Relic"), as a nun studying near-death experiences
whom Joe seeks advice from, has only two scenes, and is memorable
enough that she should have either had more to do or been dropped
from the final cut. In a brief five-minute role as a suicidal hospital
patient, the wonderful Liza Weil (1998's "Nowhere," 1999's "Stir of
Echoes") elicits the type of truthful poignancy that puts the more
obvious and maudlin elements of the film to shame.
With unavoidable similarities to the notably superior thriller from
a month ago, "The Mothman Prophecies," the already tedious "Dragonfly"
stands out like an even bigger sore thumb. With a music score by John
Debney (2002's "Snow Dogs") that is so forgettable to appear almost
nonexistent, and underlit, flat cinematography by Dean Semler (2000's
"Nutty Professor II: The Klumps"), not much of anything has fallen
successfully into place. "Dragonfly" ends up certainly not being a
touching drama, and the only thing scary about it is the thought of
comic director Tom Shadyac making another attempt at a serious film.
"Patch Adams" proved that he stinks at it, and "Dragonfly" solidifies that.
Copyright © 2002 Dustin Putman