Tuesday, August 2, 2016

In short: Dreamcatcher (2003)

Four friends (Thomas Jane, Jason Lee, Damian Lewis and Timothy Olyphant) once gifted with random yet plot relevant psychic powers by their mentally disabled friend Duddits (Andrew Robb in the flashbacks, a dreadful Donnie Wahlberg later on) are having their annual reunion in the usual cabin in the woods somewhere in the snowiest part of Maine (or as we call it outside of the Movies, British Columbia). Unfortunately, this year, an alien craft has crashed down nearby and starts infecting people with toothy turds the film calls shitweasels, and the military gentleman responsible for alien defence (Morgan Freeman for reasons only known to him and the director playing a character that needs wild scenery chewing “naturalistically”) has grown murderously mad in twenty-five years of alien hunting.

But fear not, for this situation is exactly why Duddits gave our friends their psychic powers. Or something.

Given the film’s enthusiasm for stuff coming out of peoples’ arses and its overall quality, I’m probably not the first one using the word “turd” to describe Dreamcatcher. Bizarre train wreck is rather appropriate too, particularly when describing a film directed by Lawrence Kasdan and written by William Goldberg and Kasdan, men who one would expect to do better.

Sure, the Stephen King novel this is based on seems more like King just letting the favourite bits of his subconscious stream onto paper instead of writing a structured novel (or what goes as “structured” in his specific case), giving us a sort of Little Stevie’s Greatest Hits, so turning it into a decent movie surely would have meant rather difficult scripting work including judicious cutting and quite a few changes to make the thing flow or just make basic sense. Ironically, Goldman does change a lot about the story, but none of the changes seem useful to make anything work better on screen. In fact, there’s little about the script that works at all: the dialogue is generally preposterously bad, leading to cartoony one-note performances it is difficult to blame the cast for; the plot – and the way characters act – makes little sense and is pretty damn absurd without ever reaching the dream-like quality that could save the film; and the supposed suspense scenes are dragging along like nobody’s business.

That dragging does of course come with the territory of turning a deeply silly alien invasion plot into a slow and ponderous 130 minute colossus of a movie full of scenes that don’t seem to ever, ever want to end for no dramatic or practical reason. But what do I expect of a movie whose idea of suspense is “will the evil alien manage to lift a manhole cover before Morgan Freeman and Tom Sizemore end their completely pointless helicopter versus gun fight?”.

Another puzzling bit is the near total absence of female characters that make one dream of the presence of The Girl or The Wife. Making one or two of the friends women would clearly have been beyond even the wildest imagination of a film repeatedly calling its main villain “Mister Gay”.
On the plus side, Dreamcatcher is usually bad in unexpected and puzzling ways, and if one has the patience, one just might take a look at what crawled out of the asses of Kasdan and Goldman and have a good laugh at it.

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