Most of Stephen King's onscreen book adaptations have either been hit or miss; there were the hits with "The Stand", "Stand by Me", "Silver Bullet", and "Carrie", and then there were the misses with "Tommyknockers", "Sleepwalkers", and "Maximum Overdrive"; it's been a pretty rocky road of King variations on the screen, and "Dreamcatcher" is the newest adaptation from a King book. Written while King was recovering from his tragic accident in which he was hit by a car, "Dreamcatcher" follows many of the themes of his traumatic event, even featuring a main character being violently hit by a car in the middle of the road. It's unfortunate for King, that "Dreamcatcher" is one of his many onscreen misses. With the engaging but blande tale of friendship with "Hearts of Atlantis", "Dreamcatcher" is not one of the worst movies I've ever witnessed in recent years, but it is one of the more contrived, absurd, and incredibly bland products of King to come around in years.
Panned by critics and flopping big time at the box-office, "Dreamcatcher" is a formula gone horribly wrong with plot elements and a story so contrived that it's hard to watch this while not thinking about other stuff this borrows from. Borrowing from John Carpenter's variation of "The Thing", four men go up to a cabin in the woods to meet after years of separation and must take on an alien entity that can possess bodies; and borrowing from "Invasion of the body snatchers", many people are getting overtaken by an alien that uses spores to enter one's body and take over them.
Now, while I found this product of King's to be ultimately unsatisfying and absurd, I found it hard to hate for many reasons. I just couldn't hate this film simply because of the people behind it. Director Lawrence Kasdan who made dancing in the kitchen hip in "The Big Chill" beautifully directs this film with cinematographer John Seale (whose film credits include "Cold Mountain" and "The Talented Mr. Ripley") who are able to capture both the beauty and tranquility of the forrest, and the horror of certain scenes to a sheer precision.
The scene where the character Beaver battles with the creature in the toilet is very tense and engrossing. Certain sequences capturing the forest are very beautiful and the scene transitions are sometimes very visual, but the true aspect of the film that kept me from shying away halfway through were the cast and the performances. I'm a huge fan of many of the cast in this film and they supply some truly great performances. Right off, there's Thomas Jane, an underrated and intense actor who was brilliant in films like "Thursday" and "*6l", and then there's Jason Lee who's great in everything he's in from turkeys like "Stealing Harvard", to awesome pics like "Dogma", then there's Timothy Olyphant who makes being a bad guy so damn cool with great performances in films like "Go" and the half baked "A Man Apart".
I'd never seen much from Damian Lewis, but he also manages to give a great performance as duel characters; one being Jonesy, and the other being the English accented alien who intends on capturing his friends and possessing them. Lewis carries the film at many points, especially when he's arguing with himself and intends on getting the information on Duddits which he suspects will be his undoing, but must battle Jonesy's strong consciousness to get them. This cast of underrated actors make for some watchable pieces in the film including the round table meeting in which they discuss their pasts, and the companionship they reflect off the screen. With all these great performances and chemistry their paired with Freeman and Sizemore who attempt to make due with the material their given. Sizemore who shined in "Saving Private Ryan" does the best he can with his character who helps in the takedown of the alien invasion.
I found myself engaged at the beginning of the film. We watch as four separate characters living everyday lives have the uncanny and creepy ability to read people's mind, the character Dr. Henry Devlin (Thomas Jane: The Punisher, The Sweetest Thing), a psychologist is at a session with an overweight client and instantly guesses his over eating is attributed to his mothers death freaking the client out, while on the other end of the world Garey "Jonesy" Jones (Damian Lewis), a guidance counselor instantly guesses why a student missed a crucial test, then on the other side of the world, Pete Moore (Timothy Olyphant: Deadwood, Go) a car salesman helps a beautiful woman find her car keys, stunning her with his guessing of her situation, and he ruses her into going on a date with him, then Joe "Beaver" Clarenden calls all the guys and they agree to meet up for old times sake and remember their old friend Duddits, a mentally disabled child who changed all of their lives for the better and possibly for the worst.
Each of them, though given an incredible gift are conflicted, troubled, and suicidal. They don't know why their linked to one another or why they were given the gift of mind reading, but they intend on discovering why once and for all. When they all meet in a cabin in the mountains to relive old times and attempt to comprehend what exactly happened to them, something scary happens as an alien being begins wreaking havoc on the mountain forcing them to relive their past.
Now, where could a movie go wrong when it stars three of the most bad-ass actors in film, and a legendry actor? It's clearly obvious halfway through. With a cast which includes Thomas Jane, Tim Olyphant, Jason Lee, Tom Sizemore, and Morgan Freeman, a cast of extremely talented actors, it amazes even me that this film could have gone so horribly wrong. Now, I've never read the book before; hell I've hardly ever read a King book, I've simply relied on his films which I've seen practically all of, some of them are my all time favorites, but with "Dreamcatcher", I'm curious if such a terrible product could be saturated from a novel which received generally good reviews.
King's stories have many themes to them, a group of friends, some bonded at childhood, gather once more and must bond together to take on a force, sometimes demonic, and sometimes just life within itself. "Stand by Me", "Hearts of Atlantis", "It", "Silver Bullet" all have relatively the same themes, but this film seems as if King has reached the bottom of the barrel because what starts off as a good film ends in simple absurdity and sheer nonsense. My first warning sign came when two of the four friends discover an old man in the middle of the woods and take him in; they begin to notice his stomach has grown noticeably large, and discover him in the bathroom on the toilet and some odd creature has come out of his behind. Borrowing from "Alien", the creature is implanted in your behind, and then hibernates, and is born from your behind.
I can't begin to describe where everything seemed to go downhill, but that is a clear indicator of sheer nonsense. King once said "This will do for toilets like Psycho did for showers", and it wasn't true, it was ridiculous, and hardly scary. I entered into this relatively involved as we're introduced to four interesting and intriguing characters, they gather in a cabin and begin talking and joking and remembering their friend Duddits, a mentally disabled boy who changed their lives after they saved him from being beaten to death and they're drawn to one another, then the story takes a gradual turn into horror movie territory as we watch the four men split into two and are forced to fight their own battles with the alien entity.
Jonesy and Beaver encounter the old man on the toilet and discover the turd-like creature in the toilet. Beaver then sits on the toilet trapping it, but when he attempts to reach for a toothpick, the creature is set free. As would require, Jonesy is slower than shit floating and when he returns to bind the creature down, he watches as his friend does battle with the alien turd and loses. Jonesy is also taken and the battle begins with the friends and the alien entity. Now, for some odd reason, Duddits plays a crucial role in the four men's battle with the alien, as does the dreamcatcher, but it's so-o vague it's hard to actually explained, as well as it's hard to explain the connection.
Duddits, a mentally disable boy is portrayed with such scathing offensiveness, it's hard to actually like him. He screams and chants at eye rolling capacity, and the four boys who bond with him are also pretty unlikable as well. At one point, in a really cheesy moment, one of the boys begin singing to Duddits after he cries; a truly tender moment if handled right, but alas truly ridiculous.
Absurdity and nonsense continue to enter the story as we're introduced to two more characters, Col. Curtis, an eccentric and violent colonel who looks like a clone of R. Lee Ermy, and his sidekick Lt. Owen played by Tom Sizemore. What's sad is these two fine actors are put to so much waste, it's criminal. Freeman is reduced to a caricature of an army colonel as he screams at every person and spouts cheesy and often annoying one liners, while Sizemore gives a restrained and mellow performance as his apprentice.
The chemistry between the two is generic while the one-liners fly. This is how Col. Curtis describes the alien form in one of the many eye rolling moments to his apprentice, "Believe me, lieutenant you wouldn't want it marrying your sister". The two look bored in this role and we're forced to watch their vague character development while sitting through terrible dialogue given by every character in the film including "Beaver" who has his own lingo that might have been charming, but is cornball and easily obnoxious.
We must sit through every one-liner and cheesy monologue as watch an absurd and bland story unfold before our eyes. We're then expected to forget the previous events as even more developments occur where the possessed Jonesy conflicts with himself in wild monologues. The alien talks in an odd cheesy British accent, while his consciousness Jonesy argues back. While Damian Lewis is threatening and believable, the monologues and scenes of him as the alien is annoying and at times hard to watch. So while the terrible dialogue, and bland story developments occur, the story shifts yet again as we witness the alien's true intentions to get to the water reserve and take over the world while spreading their spores to different people.
Suddenly Duddits is brought in, an older Duddits played by Donnie Wahlberg who gives a cheesy performance as a mentally disabled man and helps in the takedown of the aliens in a climax that is so forced and so ridiculous it left me staring at the screen in sheer disbelief at its utter nonsensical and absurd plot twist. Now, once again I ask: what significance does the dreamcatcher play in the story? Well, that's one for the ages.
Cheesy, contrived, bland, and awful dialogue pollute a film with much potential. There's a great cast, and a great director, but ultimately the finishing product pales in comparison. Besides, what can you expect from a film in which aliens are born from the butt?