Rated PG-13 - Running Time: 1:43 - Released 2/22/02

Kevin Costner seems to be attracted to crappy movies like a dragonfly to a pond. Although he has had his share of successes, e.g., Dances With Wolves, JFK, and Thirteen Days, he has also been responsible, or at least partly responsible, for the likes of Waterworld, The Postman, and For Love Of The Game. What is annoyingly common in practically all his films is his identical characterization as a good guy whom no one understands, and that irritating fake-crying he always does. There's plenty of that in Tom Shadyac's Dragonfly, a supernatural romantic thriller written by Brandon Camp, David Seltzer, and Mike Thompson. Shadyac, who directed comedies like The Nutty Professor and Liar Liar before switching to sappy drama with Patch Adams, did not learn that he should stick with his long suit. This film, while a well-intentioned investigation into the power of faith and the possibility of life after death, is so fraught with maudlin dialogue and ridiculous lapses of reason it successfully hamstrings its own power to reach the audience.

Costner is Chicago emergency room doctor Joe Darrow, whose pregnant wife, oncologist and Red Cross volunteer Emily, was tragically killed in a bus accident in Venezuela. Unable to deal with the loss, but unable to call on faith because he's an atheist, Joe throws himself back into his work, but soon begins to have strange experiences that imply Emily is trying to contact him from beyond. He hears voices. Kids who have near-death experiences tell him that she said hello from the other side, and compulsively draw crooked crosses whose meanings are unclear. And he keeps seeing dragonflies, which were her favorite insect. Or something.

Thinking he's going crazy, he tells his neighbor (Kathy Bates), his colleague (Ron Rifkin), and his boss (Joe Morton), who all tell him, "You're going crazy." But the one person who believes him is Sister Madeline (Linda Hunt), a nun who thinks it is possible to communicate during the process of dying, and that Emily is sending him a message through the patients. "There are a thousand steps between full consciousness and death," she says, "and belief gets you there." Or something.

So Joe gets on a plane and flies to Venezuela, where he finds out something not only incredible, not only wonderful, but downright unlikely.

Besides the mawkish dialogue and insufferable scenery chewing, which director Shadyac seems to encourage from not only Costner but all his actors, this film suffers from a palpable sense of Hollywood symbol overkill. It's almost like someone came up with the "crooked cross" idea and decided to make a film around it. The symbol is cute, but its significance is idiotic. Not to mention that Costner's character is one of those heroes he plays so often, able to figure out obscure hints, jump off huge waterfalls, and leap tall buildings in a single bound. Gad—does anybody have a really big fly swatter? **

Copyright 2002 by John R. McEwen and The Republican

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