The Mothman Prophecies

By Mark Ramsey | 2002/01/25

Beware, the Mothman Cometh!

Ready your insecticides and bug-zappers, kids, because this is one ugly pest of a movie.

They say The Mothman Prophecies is based on true events in Point Pleasant, West Virginia – that’s “true” in the same way that Britney Spears is not a girl, not yet a woman.

What kind of fearsome beast is the “Mothman,” anyway? Active imaginations contend he is a huge creature with red eyes and wings. That means my worst fear has been realized: Rodney Dangerfield can fly!

mothman_cedarcloset.jpgFrom a distance, the Mothman looks something like A.J. Benza in E!’s Mysteries and Scandals. You never get an up-close look at him; instead you’re forced to contend with a hundred abstract witness drawings, all looking like a Marc Chagall smear with eyes. Why is every witness handy with charcoal and a sketch pad, but nobody owns a camera? They’ve got ve-hickles here in Point Pleasant; they must have instamatics and some flash cubes too, right?

People have been imagining the Mothman for centuries, this movie tells us. His image even shows up in cave paintings – next to a youthful Joan Rivers.

How frightening is the Mothman? Well how can you be afraid of a super-powered entity who leaves silvery crap on your shoe when you step on him, a creature who calls moth balls kryptonite?

It’s been decades since Richard Gere made a good career move that didn’t include the words “also starring Julia Roberts,” and The Mothman Prophecies is hardly an exception. Richard works at the Washington Post. Yes, the paper that once uncovered Watergate and brought down a president is now is reduced to investigating oversized insect soothsayers. Out with Katharine Graham, in with All the President’s Moth-Men.

When Gere plugs this movie on the Tonight Show he’d better bring along his tap shoes. More gigs like this, Richard, and you’ll need to bone up on your mime and street-juggling.

Check out this cast: Grace, from Will and Grace, is here as Richard’s fast dying love. As Will’s pal Jack quipped, “I hope the Mothman’s not drawn to a flamer!”

Richard’s buddy at the Post is Steve, Miranda’s sperm donor from Sex and the City. It turns out you can take the actor out of Steve, but you can’t take Steve out of the actor. Sorry, Steve, but you’re Steve!

The biggest travesty in this movie is the casting of Oscar nominee Laura Linney as a small-town cop in a fuzzy Fargo cap. “What are you doing here?” Laura asks Richard. No, what are you doing here, Laura?

mothman_dullandgrace.jpgThis movie was scripted by a guy named Richard Hatem. Not since Billy Wilder has a writer’s name spoken volumes about his feeling for the audience.

Believe it or not, this Mothman has a Moth-phone. And he keeps calling Richard Gere to deliver clues to future natural disasters. “Fortunately,” says Richard, “the first five minutes of these phone prophecies are free.”

“There will be a great tragedy on the River Ohio,” warned the Mothman during one of his psychic hotline telemarketing calls. You’ve been fluttering around my garden lamp too long, Mr. Mothman, because we Earth people refer to it as the Ohio River, not the River Ohio. Were you thinking of the River Phoenix?

Richard asks Alan Bates why these messages are coming to him. The answer – and I’m not making this up – “You noticed that they noticed that you noticed them.” Oh for God’s sake. I can’t read my notes on this movie because I got bored and used them to make graceful origami cranes.

From the looks of things, this movie’s budget is on a par with the average Bar Mitzvah. During the big bridge collapse scene the tumbling miniatures couldn’t be more obvious if they were tiny tanks shooting puffs of smoke at a guy in a Godzilla suit.

The Mothman Prophecies is full of the kind of zippy, flashy cuts and faux-freaky sound effects that substitute for plot in crappy mysto-thrillers of this ilk. Count on this: When the actors aren’t reading lines, the Avid editor is snorting them.

The Mothman Prophecies would have worked better as a comedy.

Okay, an intentional comedy.

Photos Copyright ©2002 Screen Gems


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