An idiotic adaptation of Stephen King’s sprawling novel, the most shocking thing about Dreamcatcher is that it marks a collaboration between two of Hollywood’s most talented scriptwriters. William Goldman and Lawrence Kasdan may have once been responsible for the likes of All the President’s Men and Body Heat respectively, but their script for Dreamcatcher is so disjointed that I can only guess that each turned in their half without checking what the other had written.
It starts well enough – Henry (Thomas Jane), Joe (Jason Lee), Jonesy (Damian Lewis) and Pete (Timothy Olyphant) have been friends since childhood and are blessed with a psychic ability imbued to them by Douglas 'Duddits' Cavell, a mentally handicapped boy they befriended in their teens. During their annual get-together in a snow-bound log cabin, strange things start to happen – a lost hiker is found, his body covered in sores, and before they know it a horrific toothy worm has burst forth from his rectum. The quartet suddenly find themselves in the middle of a quarantine zone set up by Colonel Curtis (Morgan Freeman), an army officer driven mad through years of hunting aliens.
Believe me, it gets sillier than this. The killer worm lodged in the hiker’s bowels causes a case of flatulence not heard since the ‘baked bean’ scene in Blazing Saddles. Jonesy is possessed by an alien and starts talking like a character from Jeeves & Wooster. Morgan Freeman and Tom Sizemore deliver some terrible lines about kicking ass and attack a spacecraft in helicopter gunships. Donnie Wahlberg pops up as the adult Duddits, mumbling to himself and clutching a Scooby-Doo toy.
There’s an entertaining scene early on set inside a toilet in which Lewis and Lee first encounter the ass-worm, but even this is spoilt by some ridiculous behaviour (leave those toothpicks alone man!). And God knows what Morgan Freeman is doing here – after years of playing sanctimonious, straight-as-a-die characters he may well have been crying out for a scene-chewing bad guy role, but was this really the best thing to pass over his desk? Maybe he lost a bet. Or maybe he looked at the authors’ names on the script and read no further.
Taken as a sci-fi/horror spoof, for a while Dreamcatcher works entertainingly enough, and there’s no doubting that some of it is being played for laughs. But despite a tense build-up, some dazzling effects and strong visual ideas – Jonesy’s subconscious realised as a chaotic library – Kasdan fails to find the right tone, and the film is never scary. At 138 minutes the so-bad-its-good factor fades pretty quickly, and yet there’s clearly too much source material to be crammed into even two hours. Maybe, like earlier King adaptations It and The Stand, Dreamcatcher would have worked better as a TV mini-series. Or maybe the whole thing was just too daft to begin with.
American writer and director with a gift for sharp, crowd-pleasing scriptwriting. Made his debut as a writer/director with the modern noir hit Body Heat in 1981, and turned in deft screenplays for blockbusters Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. His other most notable films as director are The Big Chill and The Accidental Tourist, while Silverado and Wyatt Earp were flawed but admirable attempts to bring the western back into fashion.