‘Dreamland’ review: A despicable 90-minute disaster

If Canadian director Bruce McDonald’s dreams are anything like the disgusting underworld we see in his new movie “Dreamland,” get the man a doctor.

“On the night of the strangest wedding in cinema history,” begins the film’s official description. Sounds fun, you think, like when Pierce Brosnan sings “I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do” in “Mamma Mia!” But it’s actually unbearable, like when Pierce Brosnan sang “I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do” in “Mamma Mia!”

The marriage is that of a modern-day bald European vampire called the Count and a 14-year-old child prostitute sold to him by a pimp named Hercules (Henry Rollins), who’s balding. There’s a drinking game here somewhere.

Herc, meanwhile, hires an aging hit man named Johnny (Stephen McHattie) to bring him the pinky finger of a drug-addicted trumpet player called the Maestro (also McHattie). But Johnny, like all Johnnys, has a heart, and instead takes the opportunity to free the child bride from Herc’s clutches.

By now, you should know if “Dreamland” is the movie for you.

Juliette Lewis in "Dreamland."
Juliette Lewis in “Dreamland.”Courtesy Everett Collection

There is no logical reason for McHattie, who treats every scene as if he’s walking into a saloon, to play both of these characters other than to confuse us. Besides their hair length — short versus long — they act about the same. But McDonald is defiantly nonsensical in just about every choice he makes.

That said, it grinds my gears when film lovers fall over themselves for this kind of knowingly disjointed crap as though a toddler has just handed them a drawing of a hippo. Just because an artist has an idea and brings it to fruition does not mean we have to wipe the slobber off our chins.

Weird can be fun. It can also, as here, be amateurish, self-indulgent and nauseating. Using child exploitation in a movie so frivolous doesn’t sit well with viewers. Neither does Juliette Lewis’ drag-queen-sized performance as frazzled, upper-crust Countess. I hope she got a free trip to Belgium out of it.

To be bizarre, surreal and entertaining is an art. Even in the sometimes unsuccessful films of John Cameron Mitchell, you’re always left with an image or two that entranced you. “Dreamland,” however, is shoddy and shabby. Its much-anticipated wedding is more of a store-brand “Time Warp” than anything particularly memorable.

Mary-Kate Olsen’s bowls of cigarettes — now that’s a wedding you never forget.

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