This long-delayed fantasy film touted as the most expensive film in South Korean history is some kind of mess. As the title implies dragons do go to war--but the real casualty of this endeavor is the patience of even the most undiscriminating viewer. Here is a movie absolutely overstuffed with exposition and backstory but none of it adds up to anything remotely cohesive or comprehensible. An ancient prophecy about Korean serpents becoming dragons and laying waste to the world is about to come true--some 500 years after it first came to pass. Pressed into service to save the world (or a computer-generated facsimile thereof) are a young TV reporter (Jason Behr) and a girl named Sarah (Amanda Brooks) both of whom are destined to play a pivotal part in the ultimate salvation--or destruction--of mankind. It’s only a matter of time before downtown Los Angeles becomes a war zone. Both Behr and Brooks play their roles with absolute conviction. Unfortunately in this unintentionally outrageous context they come off as laughably stiff as a result. Their obligatory onscreen romance comes off as just that--obligatory. If they’re humanity’s last hope then we’re in big trouble. Chris Mulkey and Elizabeth Pena turn up as FBI agents. Nice to see them getting work but it would be even nicer if they--being the talented actors they are--were given something anything to do. By default Robert Forster comes off best as Jack a wise antiques dealer who definitely has a vested interested in the fantastic goings-on. It’s a stock role and not a particularly good one loaded with senseless dialogue. But Forster manages unlike his co-stars to inject just a little bit of humanity and humor into the proceedings. Writer/director Hyung-rae Shim relies totally and wholly on CGI effects to tell the story but because the story is so unabashedly stupid that reliance comes off as seriously misguided. Dragon Wars is not remotely credible even by fantasy-film standards and it’s not fun enough to encourage audiences to suspend disbelief. There’s never a sense of wonderment or fun and that’s deadly in a film like this. As befits the filmmaker behind such a one-dimensional a film Shim is basically a traffic cop. The actors go here. The effects go here. And despite the endless CGI effects the rest of the cinematography is murky and dark. Dragon Wars (or D-War as it was originally known) does qualify as a movie: It has a beginning a middle and an end--and all of them are useless.
Meet Beverly D'Onofrio (Drew Barrymore) a woman on her way to getting her first book published. She is driving with her grown son Jason (Adam Garcia) back to her hometown in Connecticut for the first time in many years. Together they begin discussing Beverly's book a memoir of her life. Jumping back to 1968 we meet Beverly as a bright 15-year-old girl with a talent for writing. She dreams about going to college and getting out of her small-town existence. But like most teenagers she and her best friend Fay (Brittany Murphy) also have a penchant for boys--except Bev picks them from the wrong side of the tracks. Inevitably Bev meets Ray (Steve Zahn) a sweet guy but a total screw-up gets pregnant and has a son. Now she's stuck..and stuck..and still stuck---unhappy and taking it out on her child throughout the years. On this road trip she comes to grips with what she's done with her life and her son's.
Barrymore has certainly come into her own as an actress choosing projects that highlight her sweet comedic talent such as The Wedding Singer and Never Been Kissed. In Boys she goes for the melodramatic and although she has some great moments the material actually brings her down. Her Beverly is an annoying selfish woman who never really shows much affection towards her son--not what you would call a flattering portrayal in any way. However some of the supporting performances are outstanding including James Woods- as Beverly's cop father and Murphy as the best friend who is about as loyal as it comes. Zahn really stands out as Ray the good-hearted but drug-addicted father. His tender scene with his son before he leaves the house for good was heartfelt and real. If anyone is to get an Oscar nomination from this film it may be him.
Maybe it was director Penny Marshall's intention but the movie makes you feel like you too are stuck as you watch one opportunity after another pass Beverly by. It was exhausting and hardly worth the time spent in the theater. Marshall has had such a nice touch with comedies before such as Big and A League of Their Own but she can definitely turn on the schmaltz when she wants to and she does it in spades in Boys. Of course the funny moments were wonderful. Barrymore getting ready for a big scholarship interview with her adorable three-year-old watching her was fun but you've seen most of it in the trailer. Perhaps the fault lies not with Marshall or Barrymore but rather with the plodding script which basically goes nowhere. Once again Hollywood has decided to make a movie that would have been better suited for television.