Kevin Costner should have retired years ago after the disappointing “Wyatt Earp.” It was a sign of bad, actually awful, things to come. It’s very difficult to remember any A-list star hitting a cold streak as blistering chilly as the one that Kevin has gotten himself into. “The Postman,” a flurry. “3000 Miles to Graceland,” some snow, some frost. “Dragonfly,” full out blizzard. “Waterworld” and “Wyatt Earp” were the meteorologist’s warnings of bad weather to come, but we didn’t listen, and most importantly, Mr. Costner did not watch his Weather Channel either.
Normally, a film like “Dragonfly” would not deserve such a harsh examination, but given Costner’s track record, it is hard, actually impossible, to walk into an empty theater screening his latest bomb with anything but low expectations. This would explain the “ka-boom” heard last fall with Costner’s “Thirteen Days.” Even when Costner makes a superior film, like that one, no one goes anymore because the faith audiences once had in the star of “Field of Dreams” and “Dances with Wolves” is gone.
Now, here comes the saddest part. The unpleasantness of “Dragonfly” can not be totally placed on Kevin’s shoulders. Yes, he made the mistake of signing onto this mundane, nonsensical piece of spiritual hokum made by the director of “Ace Ventura: Pet Detective” and “The Nutty Professor,” but we have to give him a break, for it appears that there was probably no screenplay when he signed the contract or even when they produced the film.
Costner was, in all likelihood, informed of the plot and not told that all the hackneyed dialogue and supporting characters still had to be ironed out on the set. Yet, he still will shoulder the blame, because this is his vehicle and he is the star. It’s sad, but “Dragonfly” almost makes you yearn for the good old days when Costner was one of the filmmakers, even if that means sitting through the three-week duration of “The Postman” or the real-time biography of “Wyatt Earp.” At least Costner aimed at the stars, and you could laugh or snore when he crashed into Earth.
In this reality, Costner plays Dr. Joe Darrow, whose doctor wife Emily (Susanna Thompson, of TV’s “Once and Again”) was recently killed in a tragic bus accident in Venezuela. Darrow is not able to let go of his wife, partially because her body was never found. Now, Emily’s old love of dragonflies is haunting Joe everywhere he goes, and Emily may be sending posthumous messages to Joe through her near-death young patients back at the Oncology ward in Chicago.
Joe pretends to not want any help with his grief, but he then searches everywhere for the answers to these “Sixth Sense”-like questions. He turns to his widowed, lesbian law professor of a neighbor (Kathy Bates, “Misery”) and to a diminutive nun (Linda Hunt, “The Year of Living Dangerously”) who collects stories from the beyond. While they help Joe on his journey, they do not provide proof, so he must make the all-too-predictable journey to Venezuela, full of half-naked, outsider-hating tribesmen. Then, “Dragonfly” completes its supernatural genre requirements by providing a not-so-shocking shocker of an ending.
The message coming through all of this is something about faith and never giving up, or that no matter how many people call you “crazy” and tell you stop your foolish quests, you will always find your answers somewhere in the beautiful jungles of Central America. Either way, Joe is happy in the end, and the audience learns a lesson it has already known from countless other films and books.
Be smart; do not chase this “Dragonfly,” for you will be sorry – not as sorry as Kevin Costner is for constantly disappointing his ever-decreasing amount of fans, but sorry enough to long for the days of the understood brilliance of “The Bodyguard.”