directed by Lawrence Kasdan
(Castle Rock, 2003)
We've all seen Hollywood ruin some of Stephen King's most engrossing novels, but we can't blame Hollywood too much for this cinematic disaster. Dreamcatcher is just a lousy story; it pains me to say it, as no one loves and respects King more than I do, but this has to be the worst story idea that ever came out of his usually brilliant mind. I'm ashamed to say I have yet to read the actual novel, but it seems pretty clear to me that -- assuming the novel actually tells a coherent story with King's usually impressive characterization -- it would be extremely difficult if not impossible to transform it into a good movie. The metaphors this film attempts to emulate die horrible deaths when removed from King's original pages, tempting the viewer to actually laugh at the way they are portrayed onscreen. If you thought Herman's Head was silly (hey -- I actually liked Herman's Head), wait until you how this film handles that whole mindspeak thing. The harsh, regrettable truth is that Dreamcatcher is just a thoroughly ridiculous movie.
We start out with four thirty-something, clearly weird buddies. Each possesses some kind of gift, such as the ability to read others' minds. I got the impression they were all some sort of test subjects in a black ops project during their youth. I was quite wrong about that, as they actually owe their uncommon abilities to their friendship long ago with a mentally challenged young man named Duddits. The guys all head out to a mountain cabin every winter to think about their good friend, yet none of them has apparently bothered to see or even speak to him in 20 years -- uh, OK. Back in the cabin, the guys have barely begun comparing their individual oddities and exchanging movie trivia when the snow starts to hit the fan. It begins with a couple of stranded individuals turning up with a nasty rash, and then, before you can say "I Duddits," our main characters find themselves smack dab in the middle of a mysterious military quarantine. Soon, they're fighting for their lives against nasty, slimy worms with more teeth than they can possibly need. The worms are actually aliens executing a master plan to take over the world, and -- wouldn't you know it -- Duddits seemingly tried to warn them about this 20 years ago. When Mr. Gray shows up about an hour into the film, you can consider the shark thoroughly jumped; from there on out, the whole story is just laughable.
I have to wonder why Morgan Freeman (the world's greatest living actor) signed on to this project. It's not like he had never had a chance to play a sort-of bad guy before, so I can only assume he didn't read the script before signing the contract. Freeman is still good, of course (despite the odd fact that his eyebrows are huge for no apparent reason), as are his fellow actors, and I have no complaints about the special effects whatsoever (well, just one -- while it's snowing pretty good out there in the woods, there's never any falling snow to be seen in aerial shots of helicopters flying overhead). All of the wormy aliens look quite real, and there's a fair share of gore to be enjoyed on several occasions. Dreamcatcher's overwhelming problem is its story.
For one thing, it never really tells us enough about that whole Duddits business -- or about the aliens, who have apparently been visiting Earth for at least a quarter of a century. And that thing with the toothpick? Well, you'll know what I'm talking about if you see the movie. And who drew up such a cumbersome alien invasion plan in the first place? Any sentient being could have gotten the job done in about five minutes -- with five tentacles tied behind his back, no less. And, just to repeat myself, what is up with these guys never taking a couple of hours to visit Duddits after they grew up? This is only the person who gave each of them extraordinary abilities, and they all go on and on about how much they love the guy, yet they'd rather drive up to a cabin in the woods every year and think about him than actually trouble themselves to visit or call.
Here's the bottom line: Dreamcatcher is just a painfully ridiculous movie.
by Daniel Jolley