2002, Movie, PG-13, 98 mins


Tom Shadyac, the man behind such wildly successful comedies as ACE VENTURA: PET DETECTIVE and THE NUTTY PROFESSOR, tries his hand at something completely different: An old-fashioned romantic spook story. Sad to say, the results are just as laughable. Dr. Joe Darrow (the increasingly charmless Kevin Costner) is head of Emergency Services at bustling Chicago Memorial Hospital. His beloved — and pregnant — wife, Emily (Susanna Thompson), has taken a temporary leave of absence from her pediatric oncology practice to heed a higher calling, working with the Red Cross deep in the jungles of South America. During a torrential downpour high in the Venezuelan mountains, a rockslide pushes Emily's bus off the road and down into a raging river. The bodies of the passengers are never found. Joe, a staunch materialist who refuses to believe in anything so ethereal as an afterlife, packs away his grief and throws himself into his work, but soon begins experiencing strange phenomena. It seems everywhere he looks, he sees dragonflies, Emily's personal totem (she had a dragonfly-shaped birthmark on her right shoulder). Even weirder, one of Emily's young patients (Robert Bailey Jr.), who has had several near-death experiences, tells Joe that Emily is trying to contact him, and begins drawing squiggly crosses that Joe is convinced are coded messages from his late wife. Disregarding the advice of his concerned neighbor (Kathy Bates) and stern warnings from the hospital administrator (Joe Morton), Joe begins haunting the pediatrics ward, searching for answers. His journey leads him to Sister Madeline (Linda Hunt), a nun who's been doing research into near-death experiences, then back to the jungles of Venezuela where Emily died. Or did she? Cue spooky music. Though the film springs an okay twist at the very end, there's a good chance you won't be awake to see it. Using THE SIXTH SENSE as an obvious blueprint, Shadyac copies that film's somber, quasi-religious tone but can't quite pull off its creepy pacing; his film plods along from one half-baked idea about life and death to another, kindly leaving plenty of room in between for yawning and stretching. With one or two cheap jolts and a few cheaper platitudes, it's the kind of New Age fright flick that tries to both scare and reassure its audience, but does neither particularly well. leave a comment --Ken Fox

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