by Laura Kyle
Sappy fantasies gravitate toward director Tom Shadyac and A-list stars always hop on board with him. In the case of Dragonfly, creepiness is set to replace the comedy that ran amuck through his other films: Liar, Liar, Bruce Almighty, Patch Adams, The Nutty Professor... Ace Ventura... and thus, we have a straight man lead in Kevin Costner, not face contortionist Jim Carrey. And I'm not sure if that's a good thing.Costner is Dr. Joe Darrow, a brand-new widower; his beautiful, saintly child oncologist wife Emily is dubbed dead after a bus accident in South America, where she was doing humanitarian work with the Red Cross.
"Not a ghost story to tell around the campfire; it's as boring as heck."
(You see, if Joe's late wife was anything less than perfect, Dragonfly couldn't be nearly as maudlin as Shadyac insists it should be.)
But don't worry, there's a mystery, not just a boring grieving process.
Joe's wife loved dragonflies in life; I'm not sure why, I don't like bugs very much. But she had a birthmark shaped like a dragonfly, and Joe often gave her presents related to dragonflies. (I'm sure she LOVED that! Don't ever say you like an animal, unless you want your home to be a shrine to that animal after your next birthday party.)
So, Joe suddenly starts seeing dragonflies everywhere, I mean, like everywhere. Good thing she didn't like spiders!
His neighbor, played by Kathy Bates, tells him he's cuckoo and needs to collect his marbles or else he'll go from doctor to patient. However, Joe's dead wife makes that hard on him -- she basically takes advantage of the terminally-ill children she used to treat. During their near-death experiences, she arms them with a message to deliver to Joe when their hearts start beating again.
But of course, they can't remember what she said when they were in that tunnel of light, even though their sole purpose for their limited breaths in life is supposedly to tell something or the other to Joe. Ghosts should really take speech therapy, because they don't have any communication skills whatsoever.
However, the sick kids can't stop drawing a mysterious symbol, something Joe refers to as a "crucifix made of jello." I wonder how much the producers had to pay the Jell-O company for that line, because Dragonfly certainly needed it -- it's probably the only remotely humorous or charming one in the whole film.
Shadyac seems pretty secure in the final revelation of Dragonfly remaining a final revelation (even though I figured it out a few minutes too soon for it to be that effective), so he plays his cards pretty straight, and in this sense, the film is a smooth, satisfying hour and forty minutes, even if the end has you reaching for a big fat Kit Kat bar... because, frankly, GIVE ME A BREAK!
But the biggest beef I have with Shadyac, beyond his hackneyed ghost story where he's fumbling to get scares, rather than relying on Jim Carrey for the laughs, is there's a heaping does of suspension of disbelief required for Dragonfly's themes of belief.
Signs was as fictional as it gets -- but it still had strong messages of faith and redemption in there. But Dragonfly tells way too many lies about people and what they would do in situation A, B, and C, to be taken seriously. It's like trying to tell the world the sky is yellow by filming the big blue with a yellow tinted lens; Dragonfly unravels based on this alone! The rules for ghosts are all in place (well, for the most part -- Emily can only communicate with the dead we assume, and yet she somehow haunts Joe all the time) but concerning the living, breathing humans, they're tossed out the window.
And this criticism is barring Costner's uninspired performance, the occasionally lame dialogue, the fact that there's but one spooky moment in the entire thing, and the annoying symbols that get a lot less interesting as the plot progresses.
An okay premise, but one that pretty much writes itself; so many cliches out there to choose from, creativity and imagination are hardly required -- so there's nothing too redeeming about the script, however coherent it may be, because it certainly wasn't sweated over.And tack on to all that a director who seems more concerned with getting his audience's tear ducts working, not their hearts jumping, and more importantly: doesn't have any jokes to tell this time around.
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originally posted: 03/21/05 17:03:43