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 "Whatever," 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.
©2002 by Dustin Putman