ninth symphony films - movie reviews


DIRECTOR  -  lawrence kasdan

RATED  -  r

GENRE  -  sci-fi

LENGTH  -  134 minutes

RELEASED  -  21 march 2003

DISTRIBUTOR  -  warner bros.

OFFICIAL SITE  -  dreamcatcher

ESTIMATED BUDGET  -  $68,000,000
dreamcatcher - a shot from the film


buy the dvd from dreamcatcher at

buy the dvd from dreamcatcher at

friends since childhood, four troubled guys reunite for a camping trip, when they encounter a stranger with knowledge of an alternate and deadly world that they will soon see.

this marks the third film that william goldman has adapted from a stephen king novel.


picture from dreamcatcher

picture from dreamcatcher

picture from dreamcatcher


three out of four possible stars

The only way to describe this picture is to . . . actually, there is no way to succinctly describe this picture in just a sentence or two. It is a film that tries to cover so many genres that it's hard to attach a simple plot line to the film, given its strange tangents and propensity to veer off into plot territory that is completely at odds with what the screenwriter should have kept the story to. For example, the movie begins with the introduction of four friends who have been friends since childhood and proceeds to show the audience their psychic connection to one another and the strain this ability has put on their lives.

And after the "inciting incident" (which I'll not name to preserve the "surprise" for first time viewers of the film), the movie continues on in much the same vein, creating an eerie environment that sets the audience up for a movie that resembles a psychological thriller thrown about with a little bit of Stand By Me mixed in for good measure. But the screenplay doesn't stay in the world of psychological thriller for long, as it forces the characters to wade about in giant puddles, deep vats and thick blankets of sticky gooey blood.

Where the copious amounts of the stuff come from is unknown (given that their sources hold only so many pints), but for at least a half an hour, the film becomes one of the more gory additions to the Steven King family of films in recent years. While horror stories have traditionally been his specialty, that sentiment seems to have been taken to the extreme in Dreamcatcher, as the fake blood budget alone on this film must have been over a hundred grand. But before the decent into pure horror territory, screenwriter and director Lawrence Kasdan (he wrote the screenplay with William Goldman) creates some of the most interesting narrative transitions.

Hinged on the actions and dialogue of the characters, these transitions are often constructed on a bridge of dialogue to action. Meaning that something a character says will correspond to what another character does in the next scene. The transitions during the introductory part of the film allow psychic connection between the characters to appear tangible and the strong friendship among the group is completely believable and sympathetic for the film's entire running time (which is somewhat on the long side - the editor should have employed a firmer hand in the Avid bay!!).

After the mid-point of the film, the story adds in yet another wholly different genre to the mix with a scary bit of science fiction foolery that would be absolutely petrifying if the film had focused solely on that element. But since the computer generated images of the aliens (yes, aliens) don't always look as technologically up-to-date as they could have been, the science fiction element isn't always believable. Added to that failing the largely expository dialogue between military characters "Colonel Kurtz" and "Captain Underhill," and the entire science fiction angle of the film seems out of place.

Since the screenplay was based on a pre-existing novel, it would have been difficult for Kasdan and Goldman to completely ignore that element, but the film might have been more of a thinking person's picture without it. The beginning of the film shows such intellectual promise, but by the last frame, the film is literally barren of innovation and becomes something of a CGI monster fest. And to be completely frank, the aliens in this film (well, the large main alien anyway) aren't as scary as the related picture Signs. Whereas that film kept its thinking cap on for the duration, Dreamcatcher seems to have lost its intelligence quotient somewhere in the snow filled forests of Maine.

The science fiction portions of the script aren't particularly bad, and they quite possibly could have existed on their own in a straight alien invasion type film, but the alien beasts just feel out of place most of the time. And given director of photography John Seale's expert and beautiful cinematography (not forgetting the smooth transitions present in the first half of the film), Dreamcatcher certainly isn't lacking in scenery. But perhaps the wilds of Maine just lend themselves to beautiful cinematography. It is interesting how many Stephen King novels take place in that state.

The adaptation from the book notwithstanding, this film is a mish-mash of different genres that fit together like an ill-fitting puzzle. The pieces are there to keep the story intact, but the mixture is just so odd that sometimes the film becomes comedic when it shouldn't. Though Jason Lee, currently on a losing streak with a plethora of feature film bombs in his recent past (A Guy Thing and Stealing Harvard just to name a couple) makes sure the intended comedic portions of the film are indeed funny. But psychological labels could be applied to feature films, Dreamcatcher would certainly earn the title of multiple personality disorder. The first third is an interesting romp, but it just keeps getting weirder until it strays so far off its beginning tracks that it ends up in a different galaxy all together.

Review by Kelsey Wyatt.

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