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Universal Studios Home Video presents
Dragonfly (2002)

"It's belief that get's us there."
- Dr. Joe Darrow (Kevin Costner)

Review By: Dan Heaton   
Published: July 29, 2002

Stars: Kevin Costner, Joe Morton, Ron Rifkin, Susanna Thompson
Other Stars: Kathy Bates, Linda Hunt, Robert Bailey Jr.
Director: Tom Shadyac

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for thematic material and mild sensuality
Run Time: 1h:44m:11s
Release Date: July 30, 2002
UPC: 025192197826
Genre: sci-fi


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
C+ C+A-A B

DVD Review

Following the tragic death of his loving wife, Dr. Joe Darrow (Kevin Costner) avoids his immense grief by throwing himself completely into his work. However, strange occurrences remind him of Emily (Susanna Thompson) and provide the slight hope that some part of her still exists. The sickly children in her oncology ward return from near-death experiences and relate a vision of Emily to Joe. They also deliver an eerie message about finding her at a rainbow. Has Joe gone crazy? Is a supernatural force actually trying to contact him?

Dragonfly explores the possibilities of connecting with the Other Side through a mystery that remains unclear until the emotional finale. While near-death experiences and communication with spirits provide compelling subjects, this story barely scratches the surface of this material. Instead, director Tom Shadyac (Patch Adams, Liar Liar) and three screenwriters focus on Joe's grief and difficulty in believing the truth. The first two acts are surprisingly slow and uninteresting, with only a few remarkable moments taking place. In utilizing a more contemplative, low-key approach, the filmmakers suck the life from a possibly engaging tale. Everything remains so dark and lifeless that even an acceptable finale cannot remove the dreariness from this picture.

According to a close friend, Emily was the heart and Joe was the mind, which made their relationship complete. In a distressing flashback, we witness her decision to travel to Venezuela even while pregnant. He stresses the dangers of the situation and speaks with common sense, but her passion for the work is too strong. This final conflict between them increases Joe's guilt and makes it even tougher for him to move forward. The hospital administrator (Joe Morton) tells him to take a break and grieve, but he refuses to leave his accustomed routine. His dilemma becomes complicated when the children start relating their unbelievable tales. Joe does not believe in heaven, so it takes quite a stretch for him to believe their words. Meanwhile, friends and colleagues worry about his odd behavior, and a breakdown appears evident. As the supernatural appearances increase, a breakthrough finally occurs that could change everything, but also lead to dire circumstances.

Although this film offers a talented cast, Costner is the only actor who receives significant time to develop his character. The territory here closely resembles his work in Message in a Bottle, which nearly developed a new high for sappy tedium. He does a slightly better job here and gives a possibly one-note character decent weight. Unfortunately, he spends too much time moping about and only a short period taking action. Iím not sure this is the best type of role for Costner to play. His best works (Tin Cup, Field of Dreams) reveal a confident, energetic actor who conveys humanity effortlessly. While looking constantly dour, the actor has the ability to drain the energy from a picture. This saddening effect only exists partially here, but it does lessen the ultimate impact. Other fine performers like Joe Morton, Kathy Bates, and Ron Rifkin appear too infrequently to develop their characters, which places too much pressure on Costner to carry the story. Even his best pictures would not have succeeded without major help from supporting players.

Viewers looking for a supernatural thriller should probably avoid Dragonfly. Although its trailer promises chilling moments, only a few quick scenes provide even a minor scare. In fact, the memorable shot of the dragonflies breaking the glass and flying into the house actually missed the final cut. Itís not a terrible film, but there are few moments remarkable enough to warrant a strong recommendation. Shadyac makes everything too safe, which lessens the impact of the final revelation. It is designed to be a major surprise, but the monotonous setup removes most of its impact.

Rating for Style: C+
Rating for Substance: C+

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: Dragonfly spends much of its running time following Joe through hospital corridors and the dark hallways of his old house. There are a limited amount of visually inventive moments, which mostly consist of quick shots of ghosts or abnormal dragonflies. This transfer does offer bright colors that convey the ethereal moments with striking clarity. A few blurry periods occur during the darker scenes, but they hardly distract from the picture. The overall presentation is nicely organized and deserves a decent recommendation.

Image Transfer Grade: A-

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital
5.1
English, Frenchno
DTSEnglishyes


Audio Transfer Review: This disc features an excellent DTS transfer that generates an impressive surround sound experience. The rear speakers emit plenty of ambient sounds to supplement the front ones, which helps to create a complete presentation. The final action scenes in Venezuela are surprisingly effective, which is largely due to this complex track. The dialogue is clear and easily understandable, and the score reasonates effectively throughout the soundfield.

A 5.1-channel Dolby Digital transfer is also available on this release, and it also does a good job in presenting the film. Although it rests slightly below the DTS track in terms of overall clarity, it still retains considerable power and is also recommended.

Audio Transfer Grade: A

 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 20 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
Cast and Crew Biographies
Cast and Crew Filmographies
1 Original Trailer(s)
5 Other Trailer(s) featuring The Scorpion King, The Family Man, Apollo 13, Patch Adams, K-Pax
9 Deleted Scenes
Production Notes
2 Featurette(s)
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Director Tom Shadyac
Weblink/DVD-ROM Material
Packaging: unmarked keepcase
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Sneak peaks at DVD features for The Family Man, Apollo 13, Patch Adams, and K-Pax
Extras Review: Dragonfly receives an impressive DVD treatment that does explain some mysteries within the plot and offer some nice extras. The most notable inclusion is a feature-length commentary from director Tom Shadyac, who spends much of his time speaking about last-minute cuts that remarkably altered the movie. In fact, the possibly most exciting moment in the entire film was part of a re-shoot during post-production. Shadyac seems a little too obsessed with numbers received at test screenings, which did change much of the movie. However, these modificiations did improve the picture. His comments are very honest and correspond with some of my own criticisms. He also discusses the clues placed within the story that could give away the ultimate revelation to perceptive viewers.

Shadyac's words correlate well with the nearly 12-minute collection of deleted scenes, which run together as one feature. The lack of individual sections is frustrating and makes little sense. Many of these moments align with the ending twist, which could have made it much easier to discern its content. They also include shots witnessed in the preview trailer but left off the finished product. The other notable extra is the Spotlight on Location feature, which was designed to promote the film before its release. Considering its goals, this piece is mildly interesting and does offer a few good points. However, the interviews and mostly pointless behind-the-scenes footage lack anything compelling.

This disc also contains a six-minute interview with author Betty Eadie about her own near-death experience. It is an engaging piece whether you believe it or not, but it only slightly connects with the actual picture. A decent amount of production notes also give some background and follow the usual format. The cast and filmmakers section provides biographies and impressive film highlights for the major stars and director.

The final supplement is a group of trailers for Dragonfly and four other Universal releases. Each of these movies also contains a 30-second glimpse into one of the features on the DVD. They've also pulled a dirty trick and placed a trailer for The Scorpion King in front of the feature film.

Extras Grade: B

 

Final Comments

Although it covers some intriguing subjects about death, Dragonfly fails to present any truly memorable moments. This straightforward tale is mildly entertaining, but the story lacks the extra spark necessary to generate thrills. Kevin Costner makes a worthy attempt, but his performance is weighed down by a mediocre script that gives him little to do until the final chapter.

 


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