Dreamcatcher (2003)

3 Apr

180830.1020.A

Smith’s Verdict: *1/2

Reviewed by Tanner Smith

“Dreamcatcher” is based on a Stephen King novel, which like most of his novels are extremely long in detail. Seeing as how “Dreamcatcher” is a theatrical release and not a TV miniseries, special care would have to be given to trim the novel and make the film a reasonable length while capturing the spirit of the novel. So who do they get? Well, director Lawrence Kasdan (who wrote and directed “The Big Chill,” “The Accidental Tourist,” and “Grand Canyon”) and writer William Goldman (who wrote “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” and quite a few Stephen King adaptations, like “Misery”) seem like great choices. With that said, how does this great talent behind the screen create a mess like “Dreamcatcher?” This movie is inconsistent in tone, pacing, and style. It’s a lackluster project that starts out one way, enters a different territory, and ultimately is ridiculed for one of the silliest stories you’ll find in a King story.

The story begins with four friends who each possess a psychic gift. As kids, a mentally retarded kid nicknamed Duddits united them with this gift after they protected him from the town bullies. Years later, the friends—Henry (Thomas Jane), Jonesy (Damian Lewis), Beaver (Jason Lee), and Pete (Timothy Olyphant)—still have their abilities and use them as advantages for their jobs. Jonesy has an accident that nearly kills him, and this becomes a compound for a trip to a cabin in the woods, where he and the other three friends fool around and talk about the past. But soon, the entire wooded area is under quarantine by the government, who are on the hunt for…(sigh) alien parasites.

The first half-hour of “Dreamcatcher” is quite interesting, as the development of these friends and their gift comes into place. It seems like it’s going somewhere just as intriguing. But then it gets into the story with the aliens and monsters, and that story takes over as if another movie blended into the one I was just watching. I wouldn’t mind so much except that these aliens and the plot with the friends and their psychic gift just don’t fit together. Maybe they fit better in the novel (which I’ll admit, I haven’t read), but here, they give the movie a real instability. If you want to make a movie that mixes human elements with a monster story, this is not the right way to do it.

There are moments in “Dreamcatcher” that I’m unsure whether or not if they’re supposed to be taken seriously. For example, I think the moment the movie really goes downhill is the scene in which two of the friends discover an infected man dead on the toilet, as a nasty alien worm pops out of him and the friends try desperately to plunge it in the toilet. I’m thinking, this is supposed to be funny, right? And how about when Jonesy’s body is invaded by one of the aliens and speaks in a jolly British accent as it and Jonesy switch personalities to talk to one another? You can tell me; that’s supposed to be funny, right?

The flashbacks that show the four friends as junior-high-school children growing up in (where else?) Maine aren’t particularly well-executed or even well-written. To be fair, that could be because they take up a small portion of the movie, but they’re supposed to give us the origins of this gift, and they just seem rushed. This is particularly strange, considering that “Dreamcatcher” is 136 minutes long. It’s the stuff with the aliens that the movie doesn’t give a rest. We don’t even see the grown-up Duddits (played by Donnie Wahlberg) until the last 15 minutes.

The talented actors put in this movie aren’t enough to save the movie, and you know your movie’s in trouble when the great character actor Morgan Freeman, playing the anti-alien “Captain Ahab” type, can’t save it. This is probably the first time I’ve seen Morgan Freeman give a bad performance. But to be fair, it’s a bad role.

“Dreamcatcher” is ambitious, but a cluttered, unsatisfying mess.

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