Do you know D.C.?
Get our free newsletter to stay in the know about local D.C.
If director Tom (Ace Ventura: Pet Detective) Shadyac really wants to salvage his once-promising, suddenly bumbling career, then he’d be wise to encourage his actors to start talking out of their asses again. After all, when Shadyac—the man who allowed Jim Carrey to ventriloquize his hindquarters and also helmed the first, joyously flatulent Nutty Professor rehash—abandons his buttcentric ways, he manages to make crap such as Patch Adams. And who wants to hear Robin Williams speak out of his mouth, anyway? Alas, the confused young filmmaker continues to take himself far too seriously with the new Dragonfly, the so-earnest story of a recently widowed ER doc (Kevin Costner) who believes that his recently dead wife—a pregnant Red Cross worker, no less—is trying to communicate with him from significantly farther away than the Venezuelan village where she perished. Because Shadyac just can’t resist the emotional allure of suffering children, the director has Costner—sans clown nose, thank God—spend the first half of the movie slumming in a Chicago hospital’s oncology ward, freaking out near-death kiddies who just might have a message for him from his possibly-not-kaput wife. (They do, of course, and it involves a rainbow. Blech.) Once Shadyac stops ripping off his own weepy Patch-work, he commences ripping off recent thrillers The Sixth Sense and What Lies Beneath. Still, a thoroughly wigged-out Costner, visited by such harrowing bump-in-the-night ghoulies as the film’s titular insect (his wife just loved them), a mangy parrot (she loved him, too), and a disturbingly coiffed Kathy Bates (actually, I’m not quite sure what Bates is doing here), is kinda fun to watch, and his complete eye-buggy meltdown in front of his M.D. peers packs an unexpectedly creepy jolt. But the guilty-pleasure scares last only so long; all too soon, the bereaved bad actor is heading to South America to find out what’s really going on with that constantly nagging wife. Naturally, the big (not-so-) surprise ending is more concerned with who’s alive than who’s dead. And its vomitous array of swelling strings, misty vistas, and repeated close-ups of Costner’s glycerin-streaked mug is final and disappointing proof that Shadyac has abandoned the joys of a garrulous fanny once and for all. —Sean Daly