New bomb from Costner

Feb 272002
Authors: Eric Patton

My high expectations were crushed as Kevin Costner (“Field of Dreams”) adds another film to his 10-year list of cinematic blunders and box-office bombs that began in 1992 with “The Bodyguard,” moved on to ’95’s “Waterworld” and has now acquired “Dragonfly.”

In a screenwriting class they teach a very basic structure for a script. For example, “Dragonfly” followed this structure by beginning with an event (the death of his wife), supplying the audience with a little background or exposition (his friends discuss his late wife), and then they introduced the problem (the hospital administrator tells him his work is slipping and he needs to take a sabbatical). Once a script follows this structure too precisely, it strays from solid dialogue and becomes too formulaic.

A usually very solid ensemble of actors, including Ron Rifkin (“Manhattan Murder Mystery”) and Kathy Bates (“Misery”), did not have much to work with under the conditions of their characters. Due to the weak characters, the actors therefore returned with poor performances. Costner’s character, Dr. Joe Darrow, ends up teetering on the brink of mental instability and is played with such deliberate and contrived choices that one wants to laugh at his character rather than root for him.

Joe Darrow is a cross between David Duchovny’s character in “Return to Me” and Kevin Costner’s character in “Field of Dreams.” This cross seems to prevent Darrow from having focus as his own character type. At the beginning he is a doctor who’s based his entire world on physical evidence and very grounded reason. He then starts to believe in the supernatural and follow voices he hears in the hospital. But after he hears the voice, he can’t make up his mind whether he wants to pursue this phenomenon or run from it. His boss, Joe Morton (“Terminator 2”), tries to force Darrow into a sabbatical and plays the stereotypical “bad guy” in this genre of film. He refuses to listen to anything Darrow has to say and rejects the idea of Darrow investigating near-death experiences. Morton’s character became so close-minded and die-hard against Dr. Darrow, he eventually tarnished each scene he was in.

The movie goes from obvious exposition and tedious conversations to a heart-pumping score in a suspenseful scene and then back to the tedious conversations. It does, however, make the audience jump in several scenes, but the movie goes from a man having trouble grieving to an implausible and outright ridiculous adventure.

This movie is just another mistake by Kevin Costner, an actor who used to get acclaim for choosing great scripts of which to be a part. The suspected solid cast failed to save this movie and its grade plummets to a D+, like it or not.

Movies with Kevin Costner: “Field of Dreams,” “The Untouchables,” “Revenge,” “No Way Out,” “Bull Durham,” “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves,” “Dances With Wolves,” “JFK”

Movies with Kevin Costner to avoid: “Message in a Bottle,” “Waterworld,” “The Bodyguard,” “The Postman,” “Thirteen Days,” “3,000 Miles to Graceland”

More with Ron Rifkin: “Boiler Room,” “The Majestic,” “Keeping the Faith,” “The Negotiator,” “Manhattan Murder Mystery”

More with Kathy Bates; “Misery,” “At Play in the Field of the Lord,” “Dolores Claiborne,” “Fried Green Tomatoes,” “The Waterboy,” “Diabolique,” “Titanic” n

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