Stephen King movie adaptations are usually a mixed bag. For every Carrie there’s a Sleep Walkers or a Sometimes They Come Back. Let’s not even discuss how many straight-to-video Children of the Corn releases there are (the answer, of course, is far too many). So what can we expect from a novel that featured butt weasels?
Dreamcatcher centers on four friends and their annual hunting trip in the woods recounting an earlier time when they befriended a mentally retarded child who would later give each of them psychic gifts. At the same time it appears an alien invasion is nearby, the military are to quarantine the area, and the lost hunter has expelled a bloody serpentine-like creature from his bowels. What does it add up to? The craziest spring break ever man!
There are several moments in Dreamcatcher where you think to yourself, ”Well, it can’t possibly get more stupid,” and yet the movie routinely will find a way. It doesn’t know when to stop. Just when you think the bottom of the Stupid Hole has been hit, here comes an alien possession where the alien uses a freaking British accent (and actually says the word ”guvna,” proving to be the most dangerous interstellar chimney sweep). The only reason I knew what was going on was because I read the book over the summer.
The story is a mixture of different King staples: schmaltzy coming-of-age buddy stuff (It), alien invasions (Tommyknockers), gory monsters (take your pick). Dreamcatcher feels like a Stephen King greatest hits tape. The different narrative elements have great trouble gelling, as you can only segue from mentally challenged boy with mystical powers to crazy Morgan Freeman shootin’ up slimy aliens so often. The story does not work and has too many leftover bits it doesn’t know what to do with. Dreamcatcher is a proverbial square peg being jammed into a round hole.
The movie shows some promise in its opening, displaying the camaraderie of actors Thomas Jane, Jason Lee, Damien Lewis and Timothy Olyphant (a younger looking Bill Paxton if I ever saw one). The notion of the memory warehouse is a fun idea that is used for nice comic touches.
Director/co-writer Lawrence Kasdan has written some of the most exciting films of the past 25 years, and screenwriter William Goldman is an old hand at adapting King (having done the masterful Misery and the mawkish Hearts in Atlantis). So what in the world went so horrendously wrong? For starters, the book is a whopping 620 pages and would be more suited in the frame of mini-series. Condensed into a messy two-hour movie, Dreamcatcher is sloppy with its pacing and scope. The movie drags for an eternity and then makes a mad dash at a finish (I wont spoil its unbelievable awfulness but will say it veers SHARPLY from the novel).
The most interesting part of the novel, for me, was the second half that involved the alien (Mr. Gray) taking over the body of Jonesy (Lewis). What kept me reading was Mr. Gray finding a liking to human temptations like bacon and, later, murder. Seeing Mr. Gray become intoxicated with humanity and perplexed by it at the same time was interesting. Sadly, all you get in the movie is the British accent and some goofy faces as Lewis holds two conversations in one person.
Few movies come along that are as incredibly stupid as Dreamcatcher. I cant exactly recommend it for this quality. They are playing that Matrix cartoon after it (my theater showed it before the film started). It looks like a video game and features a woman doing flips and sword fighting in a thong, because, quite simply, that’s what women do in these things. It’s not really that good either.
Nate’s Grade: D
Posted on March 21, 2003, in 2003 Movies and tagged aliens, damien lewis, drama, horror, jason lee, lawrence kasdan, morgan freeman, sci-fi, stephen king, thomas jane, timothy olyphant, tom sozemore. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.