In ”Message in a Bottle,” Kevin Costner played a grieving widower who reached out to his beautiful dead wife, dropping letters to her into the ocean. In Dragonfly, Costner plays a grieving widower whose beautiful dead wife tracks him down first. Unfortunately, the late Dr. Emily Darrow, who died in a bus accident in Venezuela where she was selflessly ministering to poor villagers despite reasonable entreaties by her fellow-doctor husband to stay home in Chicago, what with being pregnant and all, lady, doesn’t go in for clear written communication. Emily prefers to leave convoluted hints, squiggly drawings, and gust-of-wind calling cards; a lover of dragonflies in all real and artistically interpreted forms, her spirit also sometimes appears by way of bug-related collectibles around the house.
Best of all, she likes to use kids who have been revived from near-death experiences as couriers to send regards to her sad, tired, angry, untouched-by-an-angel husband. A skeptical viewer might even think Emily hates the SOB and wants to mess with his head, since Costner makes his Dr. Joe Darrow such an arrogant, snappish customer in need of a psychic hotline.
As Joe amasses clues that Emily Is Not Gone, She Is Just Away, Costner commutes back and forth between the most reliable postures of his middle-aged career — mournful grumpiness and awestruck lethargy. No one in this picture can rouse him, although Kathy Bates gives it a welcome shot as his brisk next-door neighbor. Eventually, drawn by intimations, Joe drags his sorry khakied rump down to Venezuela (played by the Hawaiian island of Kauai). And yet even surrounded by fabulous, unmodernized tribespeople, Costner’s Joe can’t convince us that he believes in miracles.
I’d like to think that this silly humbuggery, this preposterous-for-no-good-reason supernatural tale, directed (with no lessons learned from his previous comedy trauma ”Patch Adams”) by Tom Shadyac, is throwaway comfort for a plague year. But following the much more entertaining and well-made ”Mothman Prophecies” (the squiggly drawings in ”Mothman” were better too) and picking up on the popularity of TV’s spiritualist parlor game ”Crossing Over With John Edward,” I fear there’s more junk like this about to come our way, whether we repent or not.