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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Dragonfly
Dragonfly
Universal // PG-13 // July 30, 2002
List Price: $26.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Aaron Beierle | posted July 6, 2002 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie:

It seems like things are winding down for Kevin Costner, who continues to find himself in the midst of dismal material. An actor who I've quite liked in several roles (relaxed and wonderfully funny in "Tin Cup", effective and dramatic in "For Love Of The Game" and "Dances With Wolves"), Costner has nonetheless picked some incredibly bad projects in the past several years and even found himself with the most limited character in otherwise good films (see his terrible accent in "13 Days").

"Dragonfly", an obvious attempt to ride the coattails of successes such as "The Sixth Sense" and "The Others" has so many faults that it's difficult to really know where to begin. Maybe this would have been better if helmed by a different director; Tom Shadyac, who previously directed "Ace Ventura" and "Patch Adams", has not shown himself to be capable of effectively handling drama and really seems very much out of his league here.

Costner plays Joe Darrow, a doctor who heads the ER at a busy city hospital. Joe's pregnant wife Emily, also a doctor, is working in Venezuela when she is reportedly lost in an avalanche on a mountain road. However, there is no body and Joe continues to believe that Emily is, in fact, very much alive. Kids in the intensive care ward have even said they've seen her. The remainder of the very long movie is essentially a wait until the predictable twist finale - is Emily alive or not (or maybe trying to contact him from the beyond)? Is Joe just crazy? Do we care?

I think the fact that I've liked Kevin Costner in prior films lead to the fact that I actually felt sorry for him while watching "Dragonfly". The actor mopes about the film, clearly looking as if he's realized that the film is another fine mess he's gotten himself into. The film contains several instances of bad laughs, including one scene where Joe's parrot freaks out, leading Joe to scream (with complete sincerity), "Big Bird, no!". Most of the film's characters also have the odd habit of adding Joe's name to the end of nearly every sentence, which started to become rather annoying after a while (one of Joe's friends actually asks Joe, when he looks as if his mind's someplace else, "where are you, Joe?" He replies, "nowhere." Gee.)

Even as I try, there's little I can find in "Dragonfly"'s favor. Costner's performance is weak; Kathy Bates is wasted in a generic role as Costner's neighbor; there are hardly any original scares; the film's grim tone and slow pace make it harder to sit through and John Debney, a usually enjoyable composer, provides a heavy and occasionally sappy score. On a positive note, Costner's Oscar-winning "Dances with Wolves" cinematographer Dean Semler offers slick and enjoyable visuals.

The film does manage a few moments here and there, but it's often a dull mess; a readily apparent attempt to capitalize on the supernatural genre that's had several successes in the past couple of years. Costner really deserves better and hopefully, he'll find a more well-written drama or a relaxed comedy along the lines of "Tin Cup" before long.


The DVD

VIDEO: "Dragonfly" is presented by Universal in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. The picture quality was generally respectable, but Dean Semler's very nice cinematography could maybe have been presented with slightly less concerns. Sharpness and detail were very good during most of the film. However, a few dimly-lit scenes could appear murky and rather undefined.

The picture suffered from the usual flaws - although none were particularly major, they all added up to a presentation that is not as good as this film may be able to look. Mild edge enhancement was seen on occasion - while only visible briefly, it was noticable enough to distract. Slight hints of pixelation as well as some little instances of dirt and specks on the print used were also seen. The film offered a largely low-key color palette; although things brightened up a bit later on in the movie, colors were largely subdued and appeared well-rendered here. Overall, a nice transfer, but I didn't find anything too noteworthy about it.

SOUND: "Dragonfly" is presented by Universal in Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1 on this DVD edition. The film's soundtrack is pretty restrained; given that this is a supernatural film, one might expect a bit more surround use. Aside from a couple of little sound effects, ambient sounds and John Debney's score, the surrounds went largely unused. Still, audio quality was very good, as Debney's score sounded warm and rich, while dialogue and sound effects remained crisp and clear.

MENUS: A clip leads into the slightly animated main menu.

EXTRAS:

Commentary: This is a commentary from director Tom Shadyac. Whatever I've thought about the director's movies, I've liked all of his commentary tracks. He is occasionally quite funny and often, seems very honest about what he likes or dislikes (and there seems to be a pretty fair amount of elements he'd change) in the final picture. As with his other commentaries, he hardly ever narrates what's happening on-screen, instead providing informative discussions of behind-the-scenes efforts, actors/performances, story details and on-set stories. I thought listening to the commentary was more enjoyable than watching the movie itself.

Deleted Scenes: About 11 minutes of deleted scenes are included; most of these seemed like too obvious clues or scenes that didn't help pacing.

Now Showing: Trailers for "Family Man", "Apollo 13", "K-Pax" and "Patch Adams" are included in this section.

Betty Eadie's Near-Death Experience: Best-selling author Betty Eadie discusses her near-death experience. I found her chat about the experience interesting until she started to tie "Dragonfly" in, which I felt took away from her story.

Also: Universal's usual "Spotlight On Location" "making of" documentary, the film's theatrical trailer, production notes, bios and DVD-ROM features.

Final Thoughts: "Dragonfly" doesn't have a particularly good screenplay to begin with, but I'm not sure that Shadyac - who seems unsure of his efforts in the commentary - was entirely prepared to take on this kind of a picture. The result is a slow picture that lacks much-needed tension. Universal's DVD offers fine audio/video and a handful of decent supplements.
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