Sprawling, gooey and profoundly juvenile, this derivative thriller piles on the cheese: aliens, male bonding, psychoanalytic gobbledygook, childhood secrets, military black ops, gross-out special effects, explosions, bodily function humor and a retarded boy with special powers. It may be an infernal stew, but there's lots of it if you leave hungry, it's your own damned fault. Psychiatrist Henry Devlin (Thomas Jane), history teacher Gary "Jonesy" Jones (Damian Lewis), used-car salesman Pete Moore (Timothy Olyphant) and carpenter Joe Clarendon (Jason Lee) "Beaver" to his friends have been inseparable since their Derry, Maine, childhood. As youngsters they rescued a retarded boy, Duddits (Andrew Robb), from bullies and were somehow rewarded with paranormal abilities: Henry and Gary read minds, Beaver is precognitive and Pete finds things. But with middle age looming, they're mired in free-floating malaise that makes their mental gifts feel more like burdens; Pete drinks, Henry is suicidal, Beaver is unlucky in love and Jonesy nearly dies after being mowed down by a car. Curiously, their thoughts all turned simultaneously to Duddits right before the accident, which shakes them from their collective nostalgic funk. Six months later, they visit their jointly owned cabin in the Maine woods for a reunion weekend, and what a weekend it is! Not one, but two storms blanket the region with snow. Disgusting alien life forms have infested the woods in search of human hosts. A clandestine military operation headed up by mad-as-a-hatter Colonel Curtis (Morgan Freeman) has quarantined the area and the spit is about to hit the global fan. Based on the novel Stephen King penned while recovering from a debilitating, near fatal accident (like Jonesy, he was run down by a car), this mass of genre clichés borrows heavily from THEY CAME FROM WITHIN (1975), THE CRAZIES (1973), both versions of THE THING, 1979's ALIEN (calling the alien fungus "ripley" doesn't make the appropriation any less creatively bankrupt), INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS (1956) and several of King's own works (notably It and Storm of the Century). It delivers a couple of good shocks, several gross-outs and one eerily moving image: A surreal drove of forest creatures, bunnies to bears, single-mindedly making tracks out of the woods. This genuinely spooky moment is, naturally, undermined by ham-fisted dialogue ("I don't care where they're going I'm worried about what they're running away from") because that's King. In his universe, subtlety is no virtue, and for better or worse, director/co-screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan opts not to mess with the formula.
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- Released: 2003
- Rating: R
- Review: Sprawling, gooey and profoundly juvenile, this derivative thriller piles on the cheese: aliens, male bonding, psychoanalytic gobbledygook, childhood secrets, military black ops, gross-out special effects, explosions, bodily function humor and a retarded bo… (more)
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