Review: DREAMCATCHER

Posted by Peter Hall - July 6th 2008 @ 9:36 pm

Directed by Lawrence Kasdan 2003
Written by Lawrence Kasdan, William Goldman based on Stephen King’s novel

There are people who love this movie.  Fans  of it band together like outcasts.  There are also battalions more who despise it, who wish it cancer.  Of this hate I am not unsympathetic.  Not that I actively like the movie, that I will join the minority who defend its harebrained, crank induced narrative war crimes.  No.  DREAMCATCHER is not a guilty pleasure of mine.  DREAMCATCHER is a stupid choice I make from time to time.

There is just something to it that lures me in.  The cast is great.  Tom Jane shows his enthusiasm once again.  Jason Lee is great.  Timothy Olyphant for once does not act solely with his eyebrows.  Always good to see Damian Lewis, if only because it makes me want to kick off a “BAND OF BROTHERS” marathon.  And then of course there is Donnie Wahlberg playing a mentally handicapped, irradiated logic loophole bipedal (or not) something or other.  Who the fuck really knows.  I don’t.  I haven’t read the book and enough time always passes between my viewings of it that by the time it comes round again I’ve convinced myself I can conquer it, that I’ll be the one to lasso its glossy bits and pieces together.

I am not.  I never am.  No one ever will be. 

I think what lures me in each time, in addition to the cast, is Lawrence Kasdan’s presentation of the debacle.  The flick looks great.  It sounds great.  The whole thing brims with attractive ingredients, there is just nothing that bonds one aspect to the other.   The divide between the first half of the film and its second is practically mythic at this stage.  I am unsure that is the film’s burden to bear.  As mentioned, I’ve not read the original source material, but I wouldn’t put it past Stephen King to cook up an equally preposterous brew of mismatch.  Sure his exposition allows for a more cohesive story, but lets face it, Stephen King comes up with some goofy shit sometimes.  A more informed reader can correct me if I’m wrong, if indeed the novel corrects all of the film’s wrong turns, but I’m doubtful.

No matter where the concept goes wrong, however, there is always one trick cinema has up its sleeve that can keep us glued.  Stuff the story, show us something different.  I don’t think even the most hardened cancer chancellors could argue against some of the cool imagery DREAMCATCHER has in store.  There are whole scenes in the movie that bank on burps and farts, but their Shit Weasel yield is a tremendously devilish incarnation.  Those rows of teeth, the slithering speed, the trident tail.  The thing is wicked.  In fact, I think Michael Bay liked it so much he ripped that part off, shoved it in TRANSFORMERS and had someone say those very words.

I even like the adult aliens.  They shape shift…or…um…mentally project to us a different shape…but either way, I dig ‘em.  They blow up like Kirby, except they have rows of teeth.  I support that.  Wish they did more, actually.  All the stuff with Jonesy’s memory warehouse is quite elegant and allows for some smoother transitions in otherwise rocky editing terrain.

And then there is the rest of the movie, which is to say and then there is the majority of the movie.  The thing is a storytellers nightmare.  We all have that friend who has a really funny joke to tell but is just miserable at telling it, stumbling over all the crucial bits because the only part he could remember was the punchline.  And he even blows that.  [You suck at jokes, Joey.]  Well that friend is DREAMCATCHER.  You know the intentions are good, that what parts do get brought into play are fleshed out as much as possible, but the whole thing is constantly bumping into itself with no exit in sight.  Characters are either folded out too soon or kept around long enough to propel plot just before conveniently canceling each other out with minimal threat to the ‘plot’ at large.

But what can I say, the child in me loves set pieces, spectacle and a sense of adventure.  Plus I love crazy concepts (more so when they unite) and horror.  DREAMCATCHER has all of that, even if the adventure portion is the viewer’s own search for buried treasure within its smoking debris.  I’m sure given enough time, I’ll stumble into it one night and say to myself, “Hey, DREAMCATCHER!  I kind of, sort of don’t hate this movie.  Maybe I’ll watch it again, maybe I’ll finally learn why in the fuck it is even called DREAMCATCHER.”

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rss 8 comments
  1. Brian
    July 6th, 2008 | 11:14 pm | #1

    How do you not mention Morgan Freeman’s eyebrows?

  2. wesitron
    July 7th, 2008 | 8:00 pm | #2

    Larry Kasdan’s Dreamcatcher is the equivalent of Richard Donner’s Timeline. There’s some decent casting, in Dreamcatcher some perfect casting, but the lack of respect for the source material is maddening. I’m not one to harp on little details as I understand there’s a lot fo things you have to change in a movie to make it work in the translation, but this movie…

    The first half of the movie is directly taken form the book, every bit of it and i loved it. The second half was Kasdan’s acid-induced hippy trip into some weird hybrid alien/mighty morphin power rangers transmographying bullshit that defies logic. That’s why it might seem so disjoint. Not that the book was much better, but at least it was good until the last 1/8 or so.

    Great review, thanks for taking the time!

    w!

  3. R.J. Sayer
    July 7th, 2008 | 8:51 pm | #3

    a stupid choice you make from time to time.

    like the fat, desperate girl at the party.

    when the hosts are kicking everybody out.

    the one who’s had a crush on you for years.

    yeah.

    i been there, man.

    you just gotta rise above, tell yourself “never again” and stop drinking so much.

  4. Sean
    July 7th, 2008 | 11:20 pm | #4

    R.J., that’s too heavy for us.

    oh hohoho, I love my silly jokes.

    I loved the shit weasels, but I thought it was really odd that, you know, they’re like “WE ALL HAVE DIFFERENT POWERS NOW” and the only thing you see is car guy’s ability to find things.

  5. July 9th, 2008 | 3:03 pm | #5

    Saw this in theaters. Loved the beginning. Then it became — I say with no exaggeration — one of the goofiest freaking movies I’ve ever seen.

    I get what you’re saying, about the potential and the set pieces. I like them, too. But I have an awfully hard time separating them from the slimy alien MMA match at the end. It’s almost as if they literally thought “what’s the batshit-craziest thing that could possibly happen at this point?” and then did it.

  6. tarquin
    July 12th, 2008 | 10:30 am | #6

    Yeah, I just love the dialogue, and the acting in this movie. If it weren’t for that, I don’t think i could watch this at all.
    I DUDITZ!!!!
    good game donnie wahlberg, good game.

  7. kahuna666
    August 3rd, 2008 | 6:25 am | #7

    this was literally the worst movie i’ve ever seen. at first it’s a movie about 4 friends with special powers then BAM all the sudden its a military alien movie and it doesnt even explain anything! (SSDD. what the fuck is that? it never even tells you) randomly tom sizemore knows thomas jane and it doesnt explain that either. i mean, if you want to make a movie that you dont know whats going on, at least tell you throughout the movie. lawrence k. is a good director dont get me wrong but i guess he’s lost his touch.

  8. Brian
    July 16th, 2010 | 7:02 am | #8

    I watched CABIN FEVER 2 last night and for some intangible reason it reminded me of DREAMCATCHER. I think it has something to do with both of them being edited by a bunch of special needs school children.

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