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Dragonfly won't Fly

01/10/2002. Contributed by Frank Ochieng

Buy Dragonfly in the USA - or Buy Dragonfly in the UK

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There's a sound reason for swatting away the preposterous "Dragonfly", Kevin Costner's latest sappy supernatural romantic thriller. Frank's just the man to tell you what it is.

Film review by Frank Ochieng Date Released: 02/22/2002
Rated: PG-13 (for thematic material and mild sensuality)
Film Length: 90 Minutes
Produced by: Mark Johnson, Tom Shadyac, Roger Birnbaum, Gary Barber
Directed by: Tom Shadyac
Cast: Kevin Costner, Susanna Thompson, Joe Morton, Ron Rifkin, Kathy Bates, Robert Bailey Jr., Linda Hunt
Distributor: Universal Pictures

One would have trouble trying to definitely pin down Kevin Costner's penchant for appearing in piffle-minded cinema. Well, the bewilderment concerning Costner's film choices still lingers on with his participation in director Tom Shadyac's belaboring and sappy sentimental supernatural romantic thriller "Dragonfly".

Dragonfly film reviewShadyac, the moviemaker behind such comedic fare as "Ace Ventura: Pet Detective", "The Nutty Professor" and the bone-headed bedpan dramedy "Patch Adams", concocts "Dragonfly" in a way that suggests the same old laughable conventions of a B grade heavy-handed horror-themed vehicle.

Despite the boasting of Oscar winners Costner, Kathy Bates ("Misery"), Linda Hunt ("In the Year of Living Dangerously") and an assortment of other talented supporting players, the parties involved in this unbalanced and emotionally-charged spookfest cannot overcome the tearjerking triteness and cockeyed contrivances that bombard "Dragonfly".

Shadyac's goose-bump thriller is shamelessly reminiscent of another insect-inspired titled supernatural drama that's currently making the big screen rounds in that of the Richard Gere vehicle "The Mothman Prophecies".

Both films featured professional protagonists whom prematurely lost their beloved wives in tragic, accidental circumstances. And as such, both films offer the ridiculous notion that the dearly departed spouses are engaged in some unexplainable and convoluted phenomenon where they're trying to communicate with their surviving partners through unorthodox means. Well, I suppose both film can also receive the same indifferent reaction because they're guilty of being hysterically hokey.

Chicago-based Dr. Joe Darrow (Costner) is understandably distraught after learning that his lovely physician wife Emily (Susanna Thompson from ABC-TV's marvelous but underappreciated family drama "Once and Again") had died in a bus accident while doing charitable work in the mountains of Venezuela. To get over his grief and disillusionment, Joe takes on bone-crushing hours in the hospital's ER just so that he can get his mind off of Emily's untimely passing. Because of the strain of losing Emily and the stress of his doctoring duties, Joe begins to experience delusional episodes.

The revelation is let out that Dr. Emily Darrow's body has never been recovered. This is all the more reason for Joe to feel that maybe his late wife might be crying out for him. The film, much like its similar counterpart "Mothman", relies heavily on the symbolism and an ambivalent sense of spirituality.

In this case, Emily's ritual charm was the dragonfly, an image that seems to haunt Joe's psyche in strange, unassuming ways. Even Emily's child patients from the pediactric oncology department where she once worked her medical magic are running "signals from beyond" for Emily in order for Joe to continue his quest for bizarre communication with his deceased lover.

One youngster in particular, Jeffrey Reardon (Robert Bailey Jr., this film's substitute Haley Joel Osment), has admitted to running across Joe's precious Emily during one of his heart-stopping journeys into suspense mode only to say that the connection wasn't quite clear due to some whimsical interference.

With the constant inquiry behind the need to intercept what may be his wife's "voice from the aftermath", Joe has seriously alarmed the associates around him whom all feel that he's gone truly insane. Among those who question his noticeable breakdown are cheery next-door neighbor Mrs. Belmont (Kathy Bates) and hospital head honcho Hugh Campbell (Joe Morton)--both concerned as to whether Joe's pilot light has been blown out based on his odd behavior.

Seeking desperate confirmation, the delirious doctor even consults a short, stone-faced nun named Sister Madeline (Linda Hunt) who excels in the area of near-death experiences so that she can provide the missing pieces to the unsolved puzzle. Joe may not have many takers who believe in his state of mind, but at least Sister Madeline concurs with his hallucinatory lapses.

"Dragonfly" is an agonizingly overwrought and mundane melodrama that squeezes out every manipulative-drawn response imaginable. Shadyac and his writing team of Brandon Camp, Mike Thompson, and David Seltzer ("Six Weeks", "Prophecy") sluggishly incorporate the ludicrous and drippy script with inane scenes ranging from showcasing "talking" comotose patients and sickly cute tykes to having Costner's sad sack character stare into space while acting so devastatingly detached.

Anyone can see that this misguided melancholy affair has the hybrid-driven tendencies that recall such cinematic sentiments as "The Sixth Sense", 1996's forgettable teary-eyed "To Gillian on her 37th Birthday", and Costner's own 1998 worn out weeper "Message in a Bottle". As a production, "Dragonfly" is top notch in terms of Dean Semler's enriching cinematography that radiates a moody and colorful murky ambiance that supports the flowing, escalating urgent tone.

But the film is so achingly misstated in its attempt at mischievous and sympathetic synergism that the end results come off as an emasculated mockery.

Costner continues to masquerade as a misplaced leading man in countless mindless ventures that only remind us what kind of mediocre movie funk he's been in lately. As if we haven't excused him for previous jaunts into tripe such as "For the Love of the Game" and last year's "3000 Miles to Graceland", Costner tries to stir up the heartstrings by needlessly engaging in empty-headed gestures of empathy that, sad to say, is quite unconvincing.

If anything, Costner's Dr. Joe Darrow is unintentionally apathetic in a synthetic supernatural snoozer that's atmospheric and blows smoke at the audience at best.

Some may buy into the drivel that is the haunting but haywire act "Dragonfly". John Debney's rousing musical score will probably liven the film's stimulating jabs but the static that is being displayed here amounts to nothing more than another overproduced hair-raising glossy flick that insists on entertaining its moviegoers with divine dread--only to come up with a bunch of frantic foolishness that's just plain dreadful.

Frank rates this film: * 1/2 stars (out of 4 stars)

(c) Frank Ochieng 2002

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