'Dreamcatcher' is just a dismal failure which had every chance to be good movie, but stubbornly avoided all of them. Penned by screenwriter William Goldman, who's known for 'The Princess Bride' as well as adaptations of Stephen King's 'Misery' and 'Hearts in Atlantis', 'Dreamcatcher' is directed by Lawrence Kasdan ('The Empire Strikes Back', 'Return of the Jedi', 'The Bodyguard'). With such talent on board, 'Dreamcatcher's inadequacies are all the more surprising.
The movie begins admirably enough. 'Dreamcatcher' tells the tale of four childhood friends - Jonesy, Henry, Beaver, and Pete - who have grown up into semi-functional adults. They're still the best of friends, and are tied together by a fifth, Duddits. Duddits was a mentally challenged boy they befriended as youths, who was also gifted with extraordinary mental powers which more than compensated for his deficiencies. Some of these have rubbed off on the four friends over the years,
After Jonesy recovers from a car accident (reminiscent of Mr. King's real life experience) the four friends go on hunting trip to a cabin in the woods. Here, Kasdan & Goldman have done an excellent job of creating a sense of atmosphere. The dialogue is witty, and Jason Lee as Beaver is on top of his game. Soon however, things begin to fall apart. While Henry and Pete are on a beer run, The Beaver and Jonesy find a lost hunter in the woods, but it quickly becomes apparent that things are not what they seem. This is easily the best part of the movie, as there's a palpable sense of suspense. The scenes in the cabin are filmed wonderfully, and hint at what 'Dreamcatcher' could have been. The bathroom scene is probably one of the best in the movie, but things go quickly downhill from there. (for heaven's sake, screw the toothpicks).
We're soon informed that the four men are at the center of an alien invasion which the US government is fully aware of. Enter mad Colonel Kurtz (changed to Curtis in the movie) played by Freeman, and his second in command Owen Underhill (Sizemore). Curtis is hell bent on eradicating the infestation, whatever the cost. Freeman looks like he'd rather be anywhere then on screen, and he doesn't have much to work with. The detailied character development in the novel is absent in the film adaptation, and Curtis is nothing more than an irrational plot device. Sizemore, as his second in command, does his standard stoic hero routine, but it adds little to the movie, and comes of as wooden in general.
The entire movie falls apart in the second act, as Kasdan can't manage to keep the separate plot lines interesting. We have a tale of four childhood friends, an alien invasion, an prophetic savant, a military betrayal, and an examination of the meaning of friendship. There's far too much on the plate for any of it to be appetizing. The plot lines integrate which each other poorly, and Kasdan has to force them together at the end, which works out horribly. Taking a complete departure from the book, the nature of Duddit's is massacred, and completely removes the mysticism and awe with which King had infused the character. It seems as though the movie was buidling up so it call fall apart spectacularly. Which it does, although at this point there's not much left anyways.
In it's favour, the movie is usually very nice to look at it. There's an excellent opening sequence, and the film is full of goregous shots of snow-coated forests and rural America. In fact, the movie has such disjointed substance and excellent cinematography, it comes across as looking overproduced. If some of the effort had gone into actual storytelling, who knows how the movie would have turned out?
Even for fans of the book, the movie does little more than massacre an excellent novel. Granted, this isn't all the fault of the filmmakers. 'Dreamcatcher' was an ambitious book, which tried to blend several genres together. Although it succeeded on most counts, it's far too complex of a work to be translated into one feature film. Simply put, this movie should never have been green-lighted. Seeing as it has, it shouldn't be watched.