Dragonfly (2002) **
Directed by Tom Shadyac. Written by Brandon Camp, Mike Thompson, David Seltzer from a story by Camp and Thompson. Photography, Dean Semler. Editing, Don Zimmerman. Production design, Linda DeScenna. Music, John Debney. Cast: Kevin Costner, Joe Morton, Ron Rifkin, Kathy Bates, Linda Hunt, Suzanna Thompson, Jacob Vargas, et al. A Universal release. 90 minutes. PG-13
"Dragonfly" drags on and on, and does not fly.
It is the fifth feature directed by Tom Shadyak . The others were "Ace Ventura, Pet Detective,"The Nutty Professor,""Liar Liar" and "Patch Adams." Let the cinephiles reading these lines decide if this record sets the screen on fire. (I do like "The Nutty Professor" however.)
Kevin Costner has played in about 30 movies (excluding many guest appearances.) This has been a very, very mixed bag, to put it mildly. No, I will not start an argument by naming titles, --but the bottom line is that too many of them were bad, mediocre or unmemorable, and only a small handful rate well in my book.
But --and here comes the catch-- I really do like Mr. Costner. In spite of dud flicks he remains a most appealing, most simpatico performer. One feels that Costner the man must be a swell fellow - as they used to say decades ago. (He is also an exception to the Hollywood rule, since, to date he has had just one divorce. Does this say something about him? No idea.)
I even liked him in "Dragonfly." He plays doctor Joe Darrow in a Chicago hospital to which he commutes from his home in, I believe, Evanston, Illinois. He is the head of emergency services. Susanna Thompson plays his wife and oncologist colleague Emily Darrow , who specialty is children. The two M.Ds love each other madly. Then, while she is on a do-good mission in Venezuela (which is lushly played by Kauai in Hawaii) she dies in a bus accident. Her body is not recovered.
Joe is devastated, becomes a zombie, a workaholic, a man obsessed. He feels, in many ways, that Emily is "there," and that she is trying to communicate with him. Much of this "connection" comes from symbolic or actual dragonflies. Those originate from a birthmark of Emily's. She had a thing about dragonflies. They involve objects, such as a paperweight of the late, lamented woman. There is a long list of dragonfly references, some including telekinesis. And then, Emily's messages from the beyond seem to be confirmed by a couple of kids with cancer and their "automatic" drawings of "wobbly crosses."
The kid actors are very good. As Jeff, who has flat-lined more than once but not died, young African-American Robert Bailey,Jr. may well be the best thing in the movie, yet he is not listed among the many sets of credits I searched.
The movie makes it explicit that Dr. Joe is not a believer in the hereafter. This makes his obsessions and out-of-body experiences even more dramatic. But, unfortunately, heavy-handed and dull. A pity, as there's the possibility of something interestingly metaphysical here. Instead, the movie joins the bandwagon of gauche supernatural pictures whose only virtue ( for those who concoct them) is box-office revenue.
The supporting cast is wasted, notably Emily's very possessive pet, a bird, Linda Hunt as a controversial nun, and Kathy Bates as a law professor who lives next door to Joe's house.
The yawn level keeps increasing as the film plods on, along with the unloquacious doctor. Finally there comes a change of pace and a trick development. The film's producers have asked the critics not to reveal it. I won't. But it's not what you think.
Good photography. The most amazing as well as unnoticed shot shows is taken from inside (repeat, inside) a refrigerator looking at its door as it closes and the fridge light goes off. If that's not worth one-half of a star, what is?