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Dragonfly (2001)
Director: Tom Shadyac

review by Stuart Law

Director Tom Shadyac, better known for Jim Carrey comedies Ace Ventura, Pet Detective (1994) and Liar, Liar (1997), and the first Nutty Professor (1996) with Eddie Murphy, has this time gone for a supernatural chiller, and on his own admission, has made a disappointing film. Kevin Costner (again showing he has about as much range as a battery hen) plays Joe Darrow, an Emergency Room doctor who refuses to grieve the loss of his wife Emily (Susanna Thompson), a pediatric oncologist who went to Venezuela to treat children and got killed in a landslide. Six months after the tragedy (who knows why it took so long) she starts sending messages from beyond the grave, using the dreams and near-death experiences of the kids on her ward back at the hospital, as the medium to communicate with Joe. It's all typically enigmatic stuff: "She wants you to go there Joe... to the rainbow" says one sickly boy who can't stop drawing a sort of wiggly crucifix after coming out of his latest near death episode. "She showed it to me," but of course 'she' refrained from saying what it all meant.
   The first third of the film is pretty pedestrian. Joe at first renounces God and any kind of afterlife, but it only takes one small incident to change his mind. A paperweight with an inset dragonfly - a 'totem' of his wife who also bore a dragonfly-like birthmark - falls off the bedside table one night, and all of a sudden he suspects Emily is talking to him post mortem. But even this leap doesn't quicken the pace. Only as Emily's messages increase in number does the film pick up speed and find anything near the spooky quality to which it aspires. When Joe finally figures out what he must do, we are instantly transported to Venezuela and are soon met with an action scene that seems totally out of place in terms of plot and tone. At least in the similarly supernatural The Mothman Prophecies, the plot warranted the collapsing bridge scene; here the action is a thinly veiled attempt to maintain some pace.
   On the up side there are some nice production values, in places, and the supporting cast (Kathy Bates, Joe Morton, Linda Hunt, Ron Rifkin) are fine the few times we see any of them. That a film required extensive re-shoots and re-edits is never a good sign. That Shadyac admits to these last minute bodge jobs is a refreshing insight into, albeit mediocre, filmmaking. He proudly declares that "over 80 percent" of tested audiences didn't guess the twist ending. However, long before that point Shadyac is plugging his next movie, another Carrey vehicle, having lost interest in Dragonfly before the finale. I didn't guess the ending but, by then, I wasn't interested either.
   DVD extras: director's commentary, deleted scenes, interview with author Betty Eadie - believer in life after death.
Dragonfly
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