Retro Review: "Dreamcatcher"
Here, for the sake of posterity (and because it’s original home is now defunct), is my near-epic review of “Dreamcatcher” from March 2003. This is meant as a public service for future generations of moviegoers and Netflix users.
The pain begins after the jump.
re-view: “Dreamcatcher” [0*]
Originally posted March 23, 2003
Hear me, America! Shit-weasel fungus will destroy the human race! Welcome to the bizzaro world of “Dreamcatcher”, where not only do aliens exist, but apparently they’ve been trying to destroy us for the last 25 years.
This was a film so astoundingly bad, even I could barely stand it.
Let me see if I can break this crap-tastic film down for you. There are these four friends, see. They all grew up in a idyllic Stephen King childhood in Derry, Maine. Then, in a quest to see a picture of the homecoming queen’s cootch, they happen to interrupt some high-profile bullies laying the smackdown on a mildly-disabled Scooby Doo fanatic named Douglas Cavell – but thanks to his inability to speak random letters, he comes to be known as “Duddits”. The five form their own Scooby gang, randomly trying to solve local mysteries. To aid their cause, Duddits imbues the boys with telepathic powers – and gives one the ability to find lost shit at great distance.
Still with me?
Anyway, fast forward 20 or so years, and all four friends are feeling somewhat off. Psychiatrist Henry (Thomas Jane) is reading the mind of his gigantic patient in an effort to get him to stop eating himself to death…when he’s not putting a gun to his head. Car salesman Pete (Timothy Olyphant) cons women into having dinner with him by reading their minds and…finding lost shit at moderate distance. College professor “Jonesy” (Damian Lewis) telepathically catches cheaters in his class and lets them go…and then walks into traffic and gets hit by a car. And as for Joe (Jason Lee), better known as “Beaver”…well, the less said the better. Anyway, they the four use the excuse of Jonesy’s crippling to convene at their getaway cabin in Conveniently Isolated, ME for their annual excuse to drink, hunt, and talk about Duddits.
Meanwhile, in a completely different movie, Colonel Curtis (Morgan Freeman) of “Blue Boy” squad sets up a makeshift Army base at the local general store. See, the entire area of Conveniently Isolated, ME is under quarantine because of an alien crash landing. These aliens not only have the ability to take any form and invade your brain with their thoughts, but they also spread a fungus which, if allowed to spread, creates giant alien worms (lovingly referred to as “shit-weasels” by Freeman) that eat peoples faces and pass the fungus on to other living things, creating more shit-weasels that destroy their host and exit out the hinder. It seems that “Blue Boy” (an elite squad who make the regular Army look “like pussies”) has been fighting this alien threat, covertly and quietly by blowing crap up with helicopters, for the better part of a quarter-century. Curtis, slightly insane in a “Heart of Darkness” kind of way, is grooming his second-in-command, Owen (Tom Sizemore) to take over as head of the MiB wannabes. (They even pull out the “one day from retirement” cliché. What’s more, as a corny “passing-the-torch” moment, Curtis hands over to Owen a gun given to him by that great military leader, John Wayne.) But Owen is in conflict over the methods of his superior, and isn’t sure blowing stuff up randomly isn’t the right way to fight the alien menace.
Anyway (can you believe I’m still recapping the plot?), over a course of events that actually make me nostalgic for “Manos, The Hands of Fate”, Beaver gets eaten by a shit-weasel, Jonesy gets taken over by an alien who eats people and speaks in a bad British accent, Pete NEARLY gets eaten by a shit-weasel and gets taken captive by Alien Jones, and Henry…gets captured by Blue Boy, and gets placed behind an electric fence. Hooray for our protagonists! That about covers the first 90 or so hours of the film – what follows is a tale of revenge and inept storytelling that somehow results in Duddits (played as an adult by Marky Mark’s brother, Donnie Wahlberg) saving the world. You only get one guess as to how.
I’m honestly not sure what’s worse – the fact that this schlock of a story is based on a book by Stephen King, or the fact that the screenplay was written by William Goldman (“The Princess Bride”) and Lawrence Kasdan (“The Empire Strikes Back”). There’s just no other way to say it. This was a terrible story, a terrible screenplay, with terrible direction (Kasdan again). This was supposed to be, at heart, a scary, suspenseful movie – except that everything was handled with such a heavy hand that you could see EVERY “plot twist” coming from a mile away. Roger Corman may not have been the greatest filmmaker in the world, but the man knew how to execute a plot twist. (Sure, they didn’t always make sense, but you never saw them coming.) Kasdan, who gave us perhaps one of the greatest plot twists in the last 20 years (“Luke, I am your father, ” anyone?) should have been able to do 100 times better than he did here.
What’s more, I’m astounded gay activists haven’t pounced on this film. Why? Here’s why. “Mr. Gay”. Duddits, who – as you’ll recall – can’t pronounce words correctly, refers to the evil alien who takes over Jonesy’s body as “Mr. Gray”. Except that he can’t pronounce the “R”. So, the main antagonist – the primary evil in the film (aside from Morgan Freeman’s acting), is known as “Mr. GAY”. Take that as you will.
Given the material, you can’t really blame the actors for their performances in this piece of tripe on film. Jason Lee simply stands around a drinks beer for the better part of 40 minutes and spouts silly curses like “Bite my bag, Betty” and “fuck me, Freddy”. Olyphant is “the funny drunk”. Jane is the brooding sad-sack. And Lewis chews vast quantities of scenery as British Alien Mr. Gay Jonesy AND tortured “normal” Jonesy held captive by Mr. Gay within his “memory warehouse”. (Don’t ask. I beg you.) Morgan Freeman is in full Colonel Kurtz mode, shooting off the hands of his subordinates who (shouted) “cross the Curtis line!” Sizemore has this perplexed look on his face, as though he’s wondering what the hell he’s doing in this steaming pile of movie.
The long and short is this: Do not spend $8 on “Dreamcatcher”. Do not rent “Dreamcatcher”. Do not watch “Dreamcatcher” if it’s ever on HBO. If someone on the street offers you “Dreamcatcher”, shoot them and burn their body. If you are on an airplane and your only options are “Dreamcatcher” and jumping to an untimely death, I hope you’ve lived a life without regret.