Dragonfly (2002) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

Oh-oh. The guy who directed Patch Adams teamed up with the non-jock version of Kevin Costner in this film which is supposed to appeal to audiences that like scary supernatural movies with surprise endings, ala The Sixth Sense and The Others. Just think of it as "Dances With Ghosts".



Only one big problem. The fundamentals. If you make a supernatural scary surprise ending movie, there are two fundamental requirements:

1. You have to provide more entertainment than just the surprise. You have to have atmosphere, tension, fright, humor ... or something along the way. This is the same principle as if you invite me to your house to give me back my lawnmower. If you ever want to borrow it again, or see me again, either give me the lawnmower immediately, or entertain me in some way during the period in which you make me wait for the lawnmower. Give me a drink and have your wife strip for me, and you'll be able to borrow it again, but don't make me sit on your couch for an hour with nothing to do but listen to you making your phone calls while I'm waiting to get my lawnmower.

2. Obviously, the surprise itself has to be surprising. After the drinking and stripping, give me my lawnmower back with the blade sharpened, and I'll be calling you, asking if you want to borrow any other tools.

This film fails on both accounts.

1. It makes you sit on the couch with nothing to do. It is a tedious movie with nothing interesting to watch before the surprise. In fact, Kevin Costner plays a doctor who spends a lot of time with children who have terminal cancer. In other words, it's Patch Adams, except with a scary clown instead of a funny one. Well, I guess that isn't fair. Costner isn't actually scary. He's just dull. Nothing in this film is scary. When you get down to it, that is the main problem. It's a message-heavy, sentimental New Age mystical mystery, and the best minutes strive for "uplifting" rather than "chilling".

2. The surprise itself is completely predictable. It just gives you back the familiar old lawnmower. You know it is a supernatural thriller, so something "shocking" has to happen, and the clues are blatant, so it's a snoozefest when it finally happens.

DVD info from Amazon

• Commentary by director Tom Shadyac
• Making Of "Dragonfly"
• Deleted Footage
• Widescreen anamorphic format
, 2.35:1

I've enjoyed some of director Tom Shadyac's movies: Ace Ventura and The Nutty Professor and even Liar, Liar. Having admitted that, I can't seem to find in his resumé any qualifications that suggest he could make a good moody spook story. On the other hand, somebody at the studio looked at the same qualifications, and gave him $60 million to do just that.

Bad call.

The Critics Vote

  • General consensus: one and a half stars. BBC 2/5, Berardinelli 1.5/4.

The People Vote ...

  • with their dollars: A loser. Made for $60 million, it grossed 430 million.
IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, this film is a D. Harmless movie with its heart in the right place, but no entertainment value except the surprise ending, which isn't all that surprising.

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