Parnell pans the latest movie from Lawrence Kasdan about four friends caught in an alien invasion. (Warner Bros.)
Avoid "Dreamcatcher" like the plague spoken of in its story. It will rank as one of the 10 worst films for 2003.

"Dreamcatcher" is Elephant Man ugly. 

The movie starts out fair enough. We see four friends caught in the malaise of postmodern life. Yet they all share not just a friendship but also a psychic power that creates a stronger bond.  

They gather at a cabin in the Maine woods after one of them has a near-death experience. It is here that the movie begins its downward slide—with an alien invasion. These are aliens of the "Alien" movie variety, except they do not introduce themselves through a face-hugger, but through a lower body orifice.   

In quick order we see the friends come in contact with these aliens through victims of the infestation. The friends discern they should use their powers in fending off the attack, and we learn, through flashback, that these powers came to them through a childhood friend named Duddits.  

Duddits is an exceptional child, with seemingly supernatural powers. These powers were given to the four as thanks for saving Duddits from bullies.   

But then Col. Kurtz comes marching into the movie. He commands an elite unit that contains alien invasions for the government. Kurtz has 25 years experience in this sort of work—and shows psychotic tendencies. He is unmerciful and sadistic.  

The movie thus establishes two fronts and follows them to a typical Hollywood ending.   

The problem with "Dreamcatcher" is that it tries too hard to be all things and winds up being nothing. It is a long movie for its narrative, but not long enough to resolve much of what it introduces. Some of the issues it raises bring more questions than answers. 

For example, the friends' psychic powers. They have not honed their powers through the years, instead using them as cheap parlor tricks to date hot women and help students in their classes. Why can't they do more with this power than just find keys?   

The friends' whining is also a major distraction. These four guys have a power that no one else has, yet they walk through life whining about how bad things are. One tries to commit suicide because he is tired of being gifted.  

Another problem is the character of Col. Kurtz. He is a rogue officer leading a highly secretive unit of the army, yet no one is aware of his psychotic nature, and there seems to be no real oversight of his activities. It is painful to see an actor of Morgan Freeman's caliber being wasted in this type of movie.  

A final word needs to be said about the filmmakers. Lawrence Kasdan co-wrote the script, with William Goldman, and directed it. Both Kasdan and Goldman have an impressive list of credits. Their involvement sparked high hopes for this movie, but the outcome is a disappointment. 

Avoid "Dreamcatcher" like the plague spoken of in its story. It will rank as one of the 10 worst films for 2003.   

Mike Parnell is pastor of Burgaw Baptist Church in Burgaw, N.C. 

MPAA Rating: R for violence, gore and language 

Director: Lawrence Kasdan 

Writers: Lawrence Kasdan and William Goldman (from the novel by Stephen King) 

Cast: Col. Abraham Kurtz: Morgan Freeman; Dr. Henry Devlin: Thomas Jane; Beaver: Jason Lee; Jonesy: Damian Lewis; Capt. Owen Underhill: Tom Sizemore; Pete Moore: Timothy Olyphant; Douglas "Duddits" Cavell: Donnie Wahlberg.

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