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DRAGONFLY ($27) wasnít warmly received by either the critics or audiences at the time of its theatrical release and quickly disappeared. With that reaction in the back of my mind, I was ready to write off DRAGONFLY as another casualty of Kevin Costnerís hit or miss career. However, after watching the film, I can say that DRAGONFLY is a lot better than I was expecting. The movie produces a nice level of suspense and proves to be a reasonably effective supernatural thriller. I liked much of what was going on throughout the course of the movie, as well as a number of the characterizations. However, I have to admit DRAGONFLY becomes somewhat waterlogged at the climax, in addition to the surprise ending not being as satisfying as one would hope.

In DRAGONFLY Kevin Costner portrays Dr. Joe Darrow, who looses his wife Emily (Susanna Thompson) in an accident in the Venezuelan jungle, while she is volunteering her services as a physician. As a result Joe begins burying himself in his duties at the hospital, where he and his wife both worked. Keeping a promise to Emily, Joe visits some of the children that were her patients in the juvenile oncology ward. During a visit, Joe has a strange encounter with a child who has a "near death" experience, while he is present. During a later conversation with the recovered youngster, Joe learns that that the child saw Emily in that realm between life and death, and that his wife has a message for him. More and more, Joe has experiences that would seem to indicate that Emily is trying to contact him- but is any of it real or is Joe slowly losing his mind due to his grief? The cast of DRAGONFLY also includes Joe Morton, Ron Rifkin, Linda Hunt, Jacob Vargas Robert Bailey Jr., Jacob Smith, Jay Thomas, Lisa Banes and Kathy Bates (whom Iím happy to watch in anything).

Universal Studios Home Video has made DRAGONFLY available on DVD in a 2.35:1 wide screen presentation that features the anamorphic enhancement for 16:9 displays. This is a very fine looking transfer that produces a clean, sharp and nicely detailed image. Colors are reproduced with strong hues and natural looking flesh tones. There are no signs or chroma noise or smearing at any time during the presentation. Blacks appear quite inky ant the contrast is generally smooth, although there are a few harsher moments due to particular photographic effects. Shadow detail is very good during the films many darker sequences. Noticeable film grain is modest and the element used for the transfer doesnít display any appreciable defects. Digital compression artifacts remain under the radar, thanks to solid dual layer authoring.

DRAGONFLY offers both Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1 channel soundtracks. The sound mix makes aggressive use of all the discrete channels, but does it in a subtle way. Small, atmospheric sounds help create the filmís supernatural creepiness through the effective use of the surround channels. The viewer is made to feel the tension that is produced by the rustling of the wind, thunderclaps and the creaking of floorboards. While there are plenty of sonic elements in the mix, the soundstage maintains an unclutteredness. Dialogue reproduction is excellent, maintaining complete intelligibility, while rendering the actorsí voices with a very natural timber. The bass channel is deep and forceful, without being unnecessarily boomy. The differences between Dolby Digital and DTS are pretty negligible, with DTS offering only a bit more warmth and sonic detail. A French Dolby Digital 5.1 channel soundtrack is also encoded onto the DVD, as are English and Spanish subtitles.

Full motion video, animation and sound serve to enhance the DVDís suitably spooky interactive menus. Through the menus, one has access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as the supplemental materials. Director Tom Shadyac is featured on a running audio commentary that is highly informative about the production of the movie, as well as with the various themes brought out in the plot. Next up is a thirteen-minute Spotlight on Location special that offers a mix of interviews, with a look behind the scene and footage from the movie. The program is a bit too fluffy for its own good, but it serves its purpose as entertainment. More than ten minutes of deleted footage has been strung together to show just what scenes didnít make the final cut of the movie. One of the most interesting features on the DVD is the six-minute "interview" with author Betty Eadie, who discusses her own near death experience. A theatrical trailer, production notes, cast & crew biographies/filmographies and several DVD promos for other Universal titles close out the video supplements. DRAGONFLY is also DVD-ROM enabled, offering appropriately themed wallpaper and screensavers, as well as web links.

DRAGONFLY isnít perfect, but it does produce a number of supernatural thrills and a good deal of suspense. I wish I found the ending to be more satisfying, but I am sure there are many out there who will. Universalís widescreen release of DRAGONFLY is an excellent looking and sounding DVD, and while a pan and scan version will also be available, I would recommend that anyone interested in seeing the movie stick with the original aspect ratio presentation.


Dragonfly (Widescreen) (2002)


DVD reviews are Copyright © 2002 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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