I don’t know what’s gotten into Shadyac. He started out making funny movies like “Ace Ventura: Pet Detective” and “The Nutty Professor”, then came “Patch Adams” and all of the sudden he thinks he has to make important films about the human condition. Of course, no half-decent writer would let a screenplay of his in the hands of this delusional hack, so he’s working with something as retarded as the script David Selzer, Brandon Camp and Mike Thompson scrambled up. If you believe the P.R. people, this is a “tremendous love story”, a “spiritual journey” and a “supernatural shocker”. A soulless naïve bore is more like it!
Kevin Costner stars as Joe, a doctor who’s still grieving his wife Emily six months after she disappeared in a bus accident in Venezuela. We’re told they were soul mates but we can never feel that, not in the hammy flashbacks we’re shown, nor in the tacked on, overwritten narration, and certainly not through Costner’s desperate attempts to emote. The characters are not developed at all beyond platitudes like Joe being so afraid to face his pain that he loses himself into his work. Ooh, what a deep insight! The movie becomes even dumber when Emily starts trying to communicate with Joe through cryptic nonsense, like having oh so cute dying kids draw squiggly lines, making their parrot go nuts or sending dragonflies Joe’s way. For you see, Emily had a birthmark in the shape of a dragonfly, and it was kind of her totem. How symbolic! How lyrical! How obvious!
The whole movie is made up of half-creepy occurrences like that are supposed to raise big questions about life after death, but unlike a film like “What Dreams May Come” which at least had an original vision of heaven, “Dragonfly” only rehashes the same new agey mumbo jumbo about bright lights, long tunnels, and “drawing on faith rather than fact”. Shadyac directs all this with the subtlety of a sledgehammer, with a swooning score that never lets up, oh so evocative long slow push-ins on Costner’s face and a buttload of dragonflies! It all culminates in Venezuela with an oddly extended sequence involving a tribe of natives, more magical hogwash and a payoff as simplistic as it is unconvincing.
There isn’t a single sincere moment, not one lousy thing in all of “Dragonfly” that denotes thought or artistry. It’s almost worth it to rent this DVD and watch the “Spotlight on location” featurette to witness how unaware the people involved are of how bad the film is. This is easily the worst film I’ve seen all year.
“Dragonfly” is coming out on video and DVD from Universal Home Entertainment on July 30th, 2002. Bonus Features include a running commentary by the director, a featurette on the making of the film, trailers, deleted scenes and an interview with author Betty Eadie about her near-death experience.