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Dreamcatcher
2003 - R - 136 Mins.
Director: Lawrence Kasdan
Producer: Lawrence Kasdan
Written By: Lawrence Kasdan and William Goldman
Starring: Thomas Jane, Donnie Wahlberg, Morgan Freeman, Tom Sizemore, Jason Lee, Timothy Olyphant
Review by: John Ulmer
   
What went wrong in the second half of "Dreamcatcher"? Here we are given a story that is engaging and interesting, only for it to be transformed into a kind of large budget monster movie towards the end. It is as if all the characters go awry, the screenplay hits a hard block in the road, and the plausability collapses. Rarely has a film so withered away in the second half as "Dreamcatcher."

The movie is based on the novel by Stephen King, a book I tried desperately to get into some months ago, only to give up a few pages in. It was a day when I had borrowed two of King's books from a local library and bought one, finally forcing myself to sit down and judge for myself if the much-hyped Stephen King lived up to his name.

I bought and loved "Misery," but the other I read, "Cujo," was unbearably awful and stupid, and "Dreamcatcher" interested me but lost me with its odd sense of narrative. I won't complain about the 800-some page novel since I did not read it, but from what I can tell, William Goldman, who co-wrote "Dreamcatcher" with Lawrence Kasdan (and also penned "Misery" for Rob Reiner), cannot be blamed for getting lost in translation. The novel seemed messy, and Goldman and Kasdan's script soon leaves behind all hope, too.

The movie's setup was incredibly interesting, which is why the latter half was frustratingly terrible. Our tale begins some twenty years ago, when childhood friends, named Jonesey, Beaver, Pete and Henry save a mentally challenged boy from a pack of bullies. The boy gives them a gift of psychic telepathy in turn, and all four men can communicate between each other "without picking up a phone."

Flash forward twenty years: Jonesy (Damian Lewis), Beaver (Jason Lee), Pete (Timothy Olyphant) and Henry (Thomas Jane) all reunite in a log cabin during a blizzard in Maine. As fate would have it, a mysterious alien force is at work. A lost man shows up at the men's cabin, only to have a strange creature force its way out of his...well...bottom. The creature kills Beaver and an alien named Mr. Gray infects Jonesey. This is where the movie starts to get...odd.

Jonesey remains inside his mind by locking himself up inside his Memory Warehouse, a subconscious warehouse visualized by Kasdan as a bunch of rooms containing Jonesy's memories. This effect reminds me of a type of "Alice in Wonderland" fable, of a man locked inside his own brain (okay, that wasn't in "Alice in Wonderland" but it's the same type of thing). It's interesting, but doesn't fit into the film. It's just too weird for what had appeared at first to be a serious film.

The film features Morgan Freeman's name ahead of everyone else's on the posters, yet Freeman turns up belatedly in this movie, thirty-five minutes in (I checked my watch!), and utters his first real line fifty minutes in. Freeman plays Col. Abraham Kurtz, the "Good Bad Guy" of this movie. Freeman is usually a compelling actor to watch on screen, especially in films like "Se7en." There's Brad Pitt in one corner, speaking his mind, while Freeman stands there with watchful eyes, surveying his surroundings and really seeing what is going on around him. Not this time. He is one giant cliche in this movie, the hard-nosed military man who, along with the aliens, is a bad guy. He is the colonel who wants to kill innocent humans to eliminate the aliens, making his purpose justified but his means not. This technique of the Good Bad Guy always angers me, every time I see it, as I don't think audiences should be duped into having to decide between rooting for aliens and a military man. No wonder Goldman and Kasdan introduced him almost an hour in--I assume that Goldman, an experienced screenwriter, realized Freeman's character would not get the audience's hopes up if he was introduced any earlier. An hour in the audience can't very well leave as voluntarily as they would in the first five minutes.

And speaking of the cast, Jason Lee was the surprise for me in this film; I hadn't really seen him before in any films. I haven't seen "Stealing Harvard" or any Kevin Smith films, so I had never really seen Lee on film before. He stole every scene as Beaver. Which figures, since he is the first killed.

Tom Sizemore plays someone in this movie, who does the obvious and cliched, and he was extremely held back as compared to his usual self. Sizemore, who starred in "Saving Private Ryan," "Black Hawk Down" and other military films as far as his mainstream films go, disappointed me. It's the terrible script, and Sizemore just went with the flow.

There's a boundary between great alien movies and terrible ones. "Dreamcatcher" started off as an intriguing character study of four childhood friends with a mysterious power connecting them. The second half turned into another horrible B-monster-movie with a larger budget. Reader, I tried desperately to figure out what was happening and where the plot was going, but after the one hour mark I started getting lost, and by the end of the film I still didn't know what was going on and, to be quite honest, I didn't really care.
 
Movie Guru Rating
Disappointing.  Had the right ingredients and should have been better. Disappointing.  Had the right ingredients and should have been better.
  2 out of 5 stars

 
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