The story is classic King territory. Four kids stick together like glue in Derry, New Hampshire (Stand By Me), grow up to be adults with their own demons (It), become hindered by snow (The Shining) during a hunting trip, and end up face-to-face with a higher supernatural power (The Stand). In this case, the four men have their own dangerous mental strength as a result of their lifelong friendship with Douglas "Duddits" Cavell (Donnie Wahlberg), a mentally retarded man with overpowering gifts.
Kasdan, who receives co-writing credit with legendary scripter William Goldman (All The President's Men, The Princess Bride, Misery) trips up in so many ways that it's hard to get a singular handle on what went wrong. To begin, Kasdan and Goldman stuff enough subplots into the film to make the whole thing feel oddly disjointed. Aliens have landed in Maine. Underground militia groups work to kill the aliens and cover up the situation. A mentally slow man sends messages to his friends. There's lots of mind reading. A car accident. A body possession. A couple of people farting like mad (I'm not joking).
Kasdan doesn't spend enough time digging into any particular plotline long enough to develop his characters (Morgan Freeman's soldier is the biggest liability), flesh out the more fascinating ideas (a man physically guards his own memories), and get us to a fully realized ending. In fact, the final showdown is not much of one at all, relying on blah special effects and a too-fast resolution that lies limp before cutting to black. Kasdan spends 2 1/4 hours trying to pace his film, only to end with a quick snap that cries, "Thanks for coming, drive home safely!"
Oddly, the performances in Dreamcatcher are uniformly bad (save for the always-entertaining Jason Lee). As Henry, one of the fated foursome, Thomas Jane (61*, Boogie Nights) looks plainly uncomfortable in a movie of this genre; Tom Sizemore, as military man Owen Underhill, is flat; and Damian Lewis (Band of Brothers), in the pivotal role of Jonesy, is too wide-eyed and showy to be believable. In fact, Lewis's journey into dual roles is even a little laughable.
King fans probably won't appreciate this translation of the book, as is usually the case (after 45-plus such theatrical adaptations). Most annoying is the amount of King's book dialogue that makes it to the screen. When King has a character use quirky, self-conscious phrases like "fuckarow" and "Jesus Christ Bananas", it provides a morsel of comic relief within a 700+ page drama but on the screen it sounds wholly contrived.
There's an intense mood that's palpable on the surface of the film, but Kasdan is unsuccessful at building on it. Instead, he often rushes through vital scenes, particularly those involving the guys' past, featuring sub-par adolescent actors (ugh, there's nothing worse to crack a movie's realism). In essence, fans of this film will be people who enjoy a simple monster movie because, at its core, that's exactly what Dreamcatcher is, providing occasional chills and, unfortunately, passing on the bigger opportunities.
The DVD adds the usual collection of featurettes and deleted scenes -- including an alternate ending that's functionally the same as what ended up in the film. What's missing is the footage where they haul out Stephen King and Lawrence Kasdan and dump them in a well. If they never shot that, they should've.
Run time: 134 mins
In Theaters: Friday 21st March 2003
Box Office USA: $33.6M
Box Office Worldwide: $75.7M
Distributed by: Warner Bros.
Production compaines: Warner Bros. Pictures, Village Roadshow Pictures, Castle Rock Entertainment, NPV Entertainment
Contactmusic.com: 2 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 30%
Fresh: 50 Rotten: 118
IMDB: 5.5 / 10
Director: Lawrence Kasdan
Starring: Morgan Freeman as Col. Abraham Curtis, Thomas Jane as Dr. Henry Devlin, Jason Lee as Joe 'Beaver' Clarenden, Damian Lewis as Gary 'Jonesy' Jones, Timothy Olyphant as Pete Moore, Tom Sizemore as Lt. Owen Underhill, Donnie Wahlberg as Douglas 'Duddits' Cavell, Mikey Holekamp as Young Henry, Reece Thompson as Young Beaver, Giacomo Baessato as Young Jonesy, Joel Palmer as Young Pete, Andrew Robb as Young Duddits, Rosemary Dunsmore as Roberta Cavell, Michael O'Neill as General Matheson, Eric Keenleyside as Rick McCarthy
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