A scene from 'Dreamcatcher'
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** stars
136 minutes | Rated: R
WIDE: Friday, March 21, 2003
Directed by Lawrence Kasdan

Starring Morgan Freeman, Thomas Jane, Jason Lee, Damian Lewis, Timothy Olyphant, Tom Sizemore, Donnie Wahlberg


Don't waste your money renting this movie. If you feel the need to subject yourself to it, wait for cable.

   VIDEO RELEASE: 09.30.2003

  • Lawrence Kasdan
  • Morgan Freeman
  • Thomas Jane
  • Jason Lee
  • Timothy Olyphant
  • Tom Sizemore
  • Donnie Wahlberg

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    Key scenes get unintended laughs in overly-condensed Stephen King sci-fi chiller 'Dreamcatcher'

    By Rob Blackwelder

    Sometimes a concept that works well in a novel just seems silly when translated to the big screen, and "Dreamcatcher" is burdened with more than its fair share of silliness.

    Adapted from a recent Stephen King tome about four physic friends on an annual winter retreat to a remote cabin who find themselves on the business end of an alien invasion, the film moves along under a reasonably eerie tenor, even as the men encounter a hunter lost in the snowy woods with what seems like a wicked case of indigestion.

    But soon a three-foot long tapeworm from hell -- with a vertical slit of a mouth bearing several rows of razor teeth -- makes its way out of the guy's body, taking the route you'd expect and leaving him dead and gross in the process. The creature eats two of our heroes and invades the body of a third in an attempt to escape a military quarantine of the area while on an intergalactic terrorist mission. You see, it seems we've been secretly fighting off these aliens for 25 years.

    Co-writer (with frequent King-adapter William Goldman) and director Lawrence Kasdan ("The Big Chill," "Mumford") goes into conspicuous shorthand mode when it comes to our history with these invaders -- and that's the first indication that the film may be in trouble.

    The roundup and possible extermination of citizens infected with a consuming red fungus by the Army's alien-killing black-ops unit (led by Morgan Freeman, sporting a bushy crew cut and eyebrows, and a wild-eyed look of at-all-costs determination) plays as a major plot point for the middle third of the movie. Yet the contaminated and condemned civilians are all but forgotten once the remaining psychic pal (rugged prettyboy Thomas Jane, "The Sweetest Thing") joins forces with a rogue soldier (Tom Sizemore) to track down Jane's body-snatched buddy (creepy, hollow-eyed redhead Damian Lewis), who has escaped the army dragnet and plans to red-fungus a major city's water supply as Step One toward taking over the world.

    Pals since childhood -- when they were given extrasensory powers by a strange, mentally handicapped kid they protected from bullies -- Jane and Lewis have a supernatural connection that reveals the latter is still cerebrally alive inside his alien-occupied body.

    But "Dreamcatcher" (the title is a reference to an American Indian artifact that has nothing to do with the plot) loses its dread and turns downright laughable when it ventures inside Lewis's mind. Depicted as a giant, golden-hued library -- a "memory warehouse" where he locks himself in a storeroom and watches out the window as the alien does terrible things while wearing his skin -- it's an overly literal metaphor that might have worked in King's book but feels like something from a bad children's story on film.

    As Lewis struggles to regain control physically, Kasdan conjures up more unintentional laughs by having the actor portray both sides of an ongoing argument between the man and his body snatcher. Doing split-personality facial acrobatics and a preposterously prim English accent when speaking as the alien, Lewis's performance soon takes on the air of an out-of-control Robin Williams routine played out in some cheap carnival haunted house.

    The inevitable but implausible revelation about the handicapped kid's connection to all these events provides a final blow to the movie, already addled by its abbreviated story arc, its mediocre alien F/X, some tangential but serious gaps in logic, and its sometimes conspicuously weird performances. In addition to Lewis's unintentionally funny schizophrenia bit, Jane delivers all his pivotal lines like a melodramatic professor in a 1950s sci-fi flick.

    Having clearly lost some complexity in its translation from the 600-page novel, "Dreamcatcher" just goes to show that even with the screenwriter of "Misery" (not to mention "All the President's Men," "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" and "The Princess Bride") on board, Stephen King adaptations that are not chosen carefully for their cinematic capacity and tailored for the screen with prudence can become unfortunate, big-budget, B-movies blunders.


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