In Dragonfly (a half-assed amalgam of Sixth Sense boos and Mothman Prophecies suggestiveness), Dr. Joe Darrow’s happy-go-lucky colonialist wife brings medicine to native folk somewhere in the mountains of Venezuela. Spanglish-shouting interpreters can’t save Emily from the elements when her school bus goes over a cliff. Back in Chicago, Dr. Joe (Kevin Costner) grieves for Mrs. Patch Adams, awkwardly chumming up with the hospital’s buggy Cancer kids. Little Jeffrey with the weak heart babbles on and on about rainbows, mists and purple mountains majesty. It seems that these children have made cereal-box contact with the afterlife, or a cross-happy Salvador Dalí. Dr. Joe is a scientist, though, which means he’s skeptical, much like his lawyer neighbor played by Kathy Bates, whose age and hairstyle has shamelessly typecasted her to a lifetime of busybody moms and lesbians. Possibly the most maudlin, unfrightening horror film ever made, Dragonfly spells out its scares and faith-speak as if it were lecturing from atop Mt. Sinai. Indeed, Joe’s conversation with a crazy nun (a ridiculous Linda Hunt, no doubt picked for her similarity to the film’s South American natives) sounds like the gobbledy gook of two children reading from a book of Bible stories. As for director Tom Shadyac’s unfortunate use of his camera, a too-close-for-comfort shot of a dead man suggests Emily is trying to communicate though the fatty tissue beneath the man’s belly button. Egregious dragonfly metaphors aside, the biggest culprit here is a pitiful screenplay whose characters announce their occupation before launching into appropriate discourse (“I’m a lawyer, something isn’t real without evidence,” says Bates’s truth-seeker) while Costner’s Joe foreshadows the film’s scariest moment by disclosing his parrot’s talking habits. Once the seemingly pro-suicide Dragonfly takes vanilla Joe to the land brown under you might wonder why Hollywood ghosts are so long-winded when trying to make contact. The film’s natives are easily frazzled, seemingly in need of the white man’s medical attention yet the patronizing Shadyac is generous enough to celebrate their hyper-spirituality. Por favor, have we learned nothing from Romancing the Stone? Hollywood cannot do South America unless Kathleen Turner is sliding down a muddy hill.
The video transfer on Universal's Dragonfly DVD is more or less on the crummy side. Dean Semler's cinematography is sleep-inducing but that's the least of the problems here. The print is noticeably grainy during most exterior night sequences and there's a washed out look to some of the day scenes. Take note of the edge halos during the film's therapeutic dinner table sequence. Sound plays a key role in Dragonfly and the English 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround track (more so than the optional DTS track) does justice to the film's ominous, intimate sound design, especially during rain and water sequences.
How can someone be so completely and utterly clueless? Not that director Tom Shadyac should ever acknowledge the poor reception Dragonfly received, but the commentary track provided on this DVD suggests a lethal ritual of denial. Having admired Jerry Zucker's attempts at humor with Ghost, Shadyac bemoans not having taken the humor far enough from the realm of the serious with Dragonfly. Also included here is a hokey making-of featurette, a bunch of deleted scenes (the disc's cover art dares to call them "terrifying") and author Betty Eadie's recollection of her 1973 near-death experience. Eadie's story is truly fascinating until, of course, she starts plugging Dragonfly.
For fans of John Edward and anyone wanting to give a burning flame an extra kick.