Solid ‘Dreamcatcher’ plot falls short of expectations

Ted Pigeon

As the names appear in the fascinating opening title sequence of “Dreamcatcher,” it seems almost impossible that the film can take a wrong turn. Based on the recent bestselling novel by Stephen King, “Dreamcatcher” assembles a strong ensemble cast together under the direction of one of the industry’s most accomplished filmmakers, screenwriter/director Lawrence Kasdan. On top of that, every aspect of the film is given A-list treatment, including cinematography from veteran John Seale, a musical score by James Newton Howard and flawless visual effects by the George Lucas house of effects, Industrial Light and Magic. One would think that with the acting and filmmaking talent involved, the result would be a pretty decent movie, but in the case of this film nothing could be farther from the truth.

The film tells the story of four lifelong friends who, despite being quite different, seem to share a mysterious telepathic link. The friends are Henry Devlin (Thomas Jane), Beaver (Jason Lee), Jonesy (Damian Lewis) and Pete (Timothy Olymphant). A near-death experience for Jonesy is what brings all four of them together again as they decide to revisit their old cabin in the New England forest to spend a few nights. But when a series of puzzling events and encounters take place, it’s not long until they find themselves battling an unknown terror that not only threatens their own lives, but also the entire world.

As a counterpoint to the developing story among the four friends and the danger they find themselves in, there is another plot angle involving the military’s containment of the situation. Col. Kurtz (Morgan Freeman) is the man in charge of the top-secret operation to dispose of any alien-life that has invaded the area before it spreads. As expected, Kurtz is a naturally relentless character that never listens to reason and would rather torch everything he sees.

The general story consists of all the elements of the author’s earlier work, from the childhood friends angle to the alien-invasion routine. Nevertheless, the plot unfolds like a mystery, and the film begins with promise. But when the true nature of the plot is revealed, the film simply unravels. It quickly becomes just another monster movie, and a ridiculous one at that, as the gruesome deaths amount quickly at the hands or, rather, teeth of the wordless aliens. The motivation for aliens in these movies never seems to change: find an isolated place to land, spread viruses and ultimately take over humankind. And of course, there’s also the mandatory scene in which one of the characters becomes possessed by the alien and wears a menacing smile for the rest of the movie.

The screenplay was written by two of the most respected screenwriters in modern days, William Goldman (“All the President’s Men,” “Tootsie”) and Lawrence Kasdan (“The Empire Strikes Back,” “Raiders of the Lost Ark”). It’s obvious that they wanted to squeeze as much material from the book as they could into the screenplay, and it simply doesn’t work. The film lacks any kind of decent pace or momentum, and consequently feels dragged out and disjointed, especially with all of the subplots and flashbacks that do nothing but decrease the interest level of those watching the film.

As a director, Kasdan is known for his more intimate efforts such as “The Big Chill,” “The Accidental Tourist” and “Mumford.” His skills as a director aren’t right for this kind of material. The performances were fine and the production values were good, but the film lacked any kind of rhythm due to the overstuffed script, negating any of the good things it had going for it. Though “Dreamcatcher” starts off as interesting premise it devolves into a downright laughable end product.