It isn’t often that I struggle to think of an adequate and fitting intro for one of my reviews. I take a lot of pride in trying to find interesting, odd and hopefully unique ways of introducing a reader to the review I am writing. Now sure, sometime I will have the occasional beef with writer’s block but it has yet to result in anything more then a rather minor skirmish with frustration. Often times it even allows me to look at my review from a slightly altered perspective, and that is all that I need to connect with the proper delivery system. But as I write this review I am sitting here, humbly before you, with nothing to offer. Not even a single solitary rambling take that inexplicably turns into a bridge for my review.
Sure, I could tell you about how I went to watch The Strangers this evening, and rather then enjoying the film, I found the most entertaining moment of the entire 90 minutes was when I watched Derek Jeter making a drunken fool out of himself in the theater lobby. I could tell you about that, but since last week’s intro was about my less then eloquent brush with Eddie Izzard it would feel hopelessly like a retread of my previous intro. Kind of like how it felt watching The Strangers.
Sure these brief glimpses of celebrity have provided plenty of decent fodder for discussion amongst me and my friends and coworkers, as we all realize that this is all good fun and the odds of another celebrity ambling up to the ticket booth is far from likely. Then, as fate would have it, Jeremy Sisto decided to stop by today to watch Then She Found Me.
Now as someone who has a soft spot for Clueless, and is quite the fanboy of Six Feet Under, having a humorous discussion with Jeremy Sisto about why movie theaters don’t carry any healthy food ranks pretty high on my “This is Bizarrely Awesome” list. And as my girlfriend would later point out, he also happens to be the first celebrity I have met whom I have also seen naked. So congrats to Jeremy Sisto on garnering that rather dubious honor. I’m sure this news will send Will Farrell and Jason Segel running for The Edina any day now.
All this celebrity contact has left me rather dazed and even a touch flustered. Now sure, we get movie stars around here from time to time, but they aren’t supposed to be wandering in off the street in roaming packs. They could at least have the common courtesy to space their visits out a bit, for my sake anyways. I mean honestly, this sort of thing only happens in dreams. At this point I half expect Alex Gardner to magically show up and try and save me from the Snake Man.
Alex Gardner (Dennis Quaid) is a brilliant telepath who has previously shunned researching the scope of his powers. He is now content to win the occasional horse race, thus allowing himself to remain unemployed and mobile. But when Dr. Paul Novotny (Max von Sydow) develops a powerful new technology for dream therapy, Alex is enlisted to aid in the research. But unbeknownst to Dr. Novotny and Alex, Bob Blair (Christopher Plummer) has other uses in mind for the procedure.
Dreamscape is an interesting movie in that it was made a good solid decade before the technology existed to make the various dreamscapes look realistic. The art direction is often times quite good, though the limited budget is readily apparent. Colored lights are too often used to convey the dream world and actors are filmed against obvious backdrops.
Even when the art direction shines through, like during a particularly impressive nightmare involving a young boy who lives in a house only Beetle Juice would love, it becomes plainly evident that a realistic a tangible dreamworld just wasn’t in the budget for more then a scene or two. But while the special effects are lagging, the film never devolves into camp, but rather the effects manage to succeed just enough as to not detract from the films rather lofty goals.
One of the goals most recognizable was how well the primary storyline was broken up throughout the course of the movie. Dreamscape opens with the President of the United States (Eddie Albert) suffering through a nightmarish dream that shows his wife perishing during a nuclear blast. While at its heart Dreamscape delivers a fairly heavy handed message about the dangers of nuclear stockpiling, by breaking up the storyline in to several small vignettes before focusing on it in the final act, it never is delivered for long enough as to become oppressive.
As a child who grew up during the nuclear arms race of the 1980′s, often times being inundated with graphs showing the current standings in my Weekly Reader, I find it incredibly impressive that a mainstream Hollywood film would take such an ethical stand against something at the time that was considered vital to our nation’s survival. The clunky effects and the publics fleeting memory may not have been very kind to Dreamscape’s altruistic theme it is still a rather grand gesture, even by Hollywood’s often ridiculous standards.
But while the stylized structure is an effective storytelling device, Dreamscape survives as a solid genre film primarily because of its eye poppingly large and talented cast. While the previously mentioned Dennis Quaid, Max von Sydow and Christopher Plummer head up the cast it hardly ends their. Kate Capshaw, Eddie Albert and David Patrick Kelly all have substantial roles, and George Wendt, Peter Jason and Chris Mulkey have solid supporting roles as well. Quaid is excellent as the smarmy and cocksure Alex, while Plummer and Kelly are pitch perfect casting as the reprehensible villains who are attempting to thwart the President from disarming the United States nuclear arsenal. Even Capshaw finds a way to not be confused with Willie Scott, which is impressive in its own right.
But ultimately Dreamscape is a film that fails not because of its low-budget effects or preachy storyline, but because of its chaotically shifting tones through the film. It is a constant struggle to discern if the film is ultimately a thriller or not, as director Joseph Ruben (The Stepfather) constantly slides comedic scenes into the framework of the story. While it works initially with a Keystone Cops styled chase sequence involving Alex and some aggressive bookies through a horse track it stumbles later on with one of Alex’s first dreams he enters. The disjointed comedic delivery is so detrimental that often times it is difficult to tell if you should be laughing at the screen or cowering. Much like a dream the film has enough of the events right, but something is just a little off.