Death Be Not Proud


Tom (Ace Ventura) Shadyac’s new résumé-deposit possesses an almost Victorian notion of swoony metaphysics that crosses the grid—slowly—from earnest therapy pulp to abject hooey. Needless to say, the hooey is the most interesting stretch, however Murine-marinated, but unfortunately the journey there is as thrilling as watching star Kevin Costner’s hairline recede. In outline, Dragonfly is a romantic ghost movie, with cancer kids left over from Shadyac’s Patch Adams, a grief-stricken drowning set piece from Costner’s Message in a Bottle, and the sort of recurring symbol-vision that made Richard Dreyfuss sculpt his living-room mountain in Close Encounters. As such, the movie depends wholly upon our empathy for Costner, who might move his face at home but refuses to do more than tearily glower here as a doctor whose luscious wife died in a jungle bus wreck and now seems to be haunting him. The question that should never be asked or answered in ghost stories—why—drives our doughy hero a little angsty-cuckoo and encourages him to loiter around terminal wards grilling sick children about their near-death memories.

Dragonfly‘s reckless incoherence is its only grace note. Once Costner’s plane touches down in Venezuela, what should be an absurd narrative fulfillment plays like a movie gone bughouse nuts. The climax comes at you like a thrown cream pie, but given its faux-mythic nerve, it’s tolerable. Too bad this latest station in Costner’s ongoing self-crucifixion is such small potatoes until then.

Even tinier spuds, Peter Sheridan’s eager-puppy gloss on Brendan Behan’s Borstal Boy underachieves like mad. Sheridan, with brother Jim producing, manages to winnow down Behan’s tempestuous boy’s-prison memoir to a handful of simplistic characters and an overall feeling of somber duty. As Behan, Shawn Hatosy is a posture and a sneer. When two jailbreak buddies die on a land mine, the cut to Hatosy’s immobile mug is this movie’s idea of thematic punch. (Sixteen-year-old Republican bomber Behan’s first Borstal stay had little impact; he spent most of the next seven years in stir.) Sheridan seems terrified of the book’s irreverent energy, and scotches most of its élan, humor, bile, and irony. What’s left wouldn’t have substantiated a memoir of any reputation, much less a movie. The film’s formulaic triumph-over-adversity arc is bullshit in and of itself—as the end titles tell us, Behan answered his midlife success by drinking himself to death at 41, a hard truth to get sentimental about.