Forget digesting – alien film is hard to swallow

“I’ve got promises to keep and miles to go before I sleep.”

Mr. Gray summed up the lives of the four main characters of “Dreamcatcher” pretty well when he uttered those 12 words.

Lawrence Kasden’s latest venture, adapted from Stephen King’s novel of the same name, chronicles the lives of four men – Henry (Thomas Jane), Beaver (Jason Lee), Pete (Timothy Olyphant) and Jonesy (Damian Lewis) – who are inexplicably tied to their past and to a fifth friend who made their future possible.

As children, they performed a surprisingly heroic act, their self-proclaimed ‘finest hour,’ by saving a mentally challenged boy, Douglas Cavelle (Donnie Wahlberg), from high school bullies.

Through a connection afforded only by the innocence of youth – Duddits, the name the boys use for Douglas, gives them a supernatural gift that ties them together forever, even though they don’t understand why. When the movie opens, the boys are all grown up and utterly dissatisfied with their lives. They meet at Hole in the Wall, Beaver’s cabin in the Maine woods, for their annual hunting trip – Henry contemplating suicide, Beaver, a personal and professional failure, Pete, an alcoholic and Jonesy recovering from an accident that killed him twice. Around them, a game of beat-the-clock begins between the military and a deadly alien force.

As the story unfolds, the main characters begin to examine their abilities and their relationship to Duddits. They slowly come to realize connections between the men they have become, the questionable humanity of the boy they left behind and the bizarre series of events unfolding in the woods around them.

When they reach the end of the road, which just happens to be in Massachusetts, they get the opportunity to perform the second great heroic act of their lives. Reunited with Duddits, once again, the culmination of the choices they have made since childhood become apparent in one last poorly animated wrestling match of good vs. evil.

To be fair, the first hour was, for the most part, true to story . but the decency ended there. This is a perfect example of why I am so skeptical about seeing movies adapted from novels. I am sure they all thought they were doing King justice, but I don’t see how. Kasden substituted plot and characterization for action and gore.

For example, in the second hour you find out that Jonesy is trapped inside his own head, watching helplessly as Mr. Gray (an alien, if you didn’t already catch that) borrows his body to complete his otherworldly mission. Talk about an internal conflict! Definitely one of the most important aspects of characterization in the novel, not to mention one of my favorite parts. It was disappointing to see how little screen time it received. If something is written as well as this part is, it needs to occupy more than five minutes of the plot.

While I felt the characterization of the main characters, as well as their relationship to Duddits and each other, was sinfully underdeveloped, I thought Morgan Freeman (Colonel Curtis) and Tom Sizemore (Owen Underhill) really gave their characters life.

In the short time allowed for character development, Freeman gives a convincing performance personifying power on the verge of insanity, while Sizemore capably handles his struggle between loyalty to his outlandish mentor and the chance to follow a psychic stranger and save the world. It sounds so corny when you say it out loud.

Not for nothing, the bathroom scene where Beaver gets killed by a shit weasel is truly amazing. Yes, Beaver gets killed, and yes, I did just say shit weasel. Allow me to explain. Tiny little aliens get ingested by unsuspecting humans and gestate inside the body. When they are fully developed, they chew their way out through your . well . you get the picture. In short, the Beav gets his face eaten by a giant muscle with way too many teeth. Suspenseful to the end – even though I knew what was coming.

If you are looking for action and some poorly conceived alien shenanigans this is definitely the movie for you. If, on the other hand, you are in the mood for plot and – gasp – characterization, spend your $7.50 at the video store renting “Red Dragon.”