In "Dragonfly," a souped-up romantic tale of longing for contact beyond the grave, we're told that the Doctors Darrow (Kevin Costner and Susanna Thompson) are the perfect team--he has the head and she supplies the heart. Both work at the same Chicago hospital--he runs the emergency room, and she's a pediatric oncologist. Listening to her heart, she takes off for Venezuela on a mission of mercy despite being pregnant only to be aboard a bus caught in a landslide.

Joe Darrow is overwhelmed by grief, intensified by feelings of anger and guilt. His wife had overridden his disapproval in her decision to heed her calling, and now he has nothing to console him but work. His bitterness, however, so overwhelms him that the hospital's punctilious administrator (Joe Morton) orders him to take a leave--but not before the little patients in the pediatric oncology ward start forwarding him cryptic messages from his dead wife. Not surprisingly, Darrow is slow to believe what is happening, but once he's convinced that his wife is attempting to communicate with him, nothing is going to stop him until he gets some answers. It would be churlish to begrudge anyone for receiving whatever consolation that can be found in "Dragonfly," yet it is impossible to find the film anything but appalling, shamelessly manipulative and contrived, and totally lacking in conviction. It is high grade Hollywood hokum, a polished production in which its people tend to remind us of their impressive professional credentials and live in expensive vintage homes with dark, burnished interiors. There's a self-congratulatory air to Tom Shadyac's direction of a script and story by various hands, and John Debney's relentlessly insistent score tells just how we should be feeling every step of the way.

There's nothing wrong in Cost- ner's performance, and it's unfortunate that his doctor's dogged quest isn't unfolding in a vastly different and less pretentious kind of film. The history of cinema has shown that it's tough to evoke the genuinely spiritual, replete with intimations of the supernatural. Those few filmmakers who succeed in transcendence, such as Carl Dreyer and Robert Bresson, do so through subtlety, indirection and a burning sense of commitment in their highly personal, idiosyncratic small-scale films. Fevered to the point of foolishness, "Dragonfly" is just a drag.

MPAA rating: PG-13, for thematic material and mild sexuality. Times guidelines: Intense sequences of terminally ill children.


Kevin Costner...Joe Darrow

Susanna Thompson...Emily Darrow

Joe Morton...Hugh Campbell

Linda Hunt...Sister Madeline

Ron Rifkin...Charlie Dickinson

A Universal Pictures and Spyglass Entertainment presentation of a Gran Via/Shady Acres production. Director Tom Shadyac. Producers Mark Johnson, Tom Shadyac, Roger Birnbaum, Gary Barber. Executive producers James D. Brubaker, Michael Bostick. Screenplay by David Seltzer and Brandon Camp & Mike Thompson; from a story by Camp and Thompson. Cinematographer Dean Semler. Editor Don Zimmerman. Music John Debney. Costumes Judy Ruskin Howell. Visual effects supervisor Jon Farhat. Production designer Linda DeScenna. Art director Jim Nedza. Set decorator Ric McElvin. Running time: 1 hour, 45 minutes.

In general release.

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