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cultural vandal | by maryann johanson

just what went wrong with DreamWorks, anyway?

I can’t help but point out the irony in the fact that this week, my fellow film critic Dan Kimmel will publish his new book, The Dream Team: The Rise and Fall of DreamWorks: Lessons from the New Hollywood [buy at Amazon], just days after one of the last DreamWorks films — Flags, a $90 million joint production with Warner Bros. — opens to a lackluster reception by audiences.

Dan couldn’t have planned this, of course, and in fact his book would have been published months ago if not for the necessary delay of that happened when the announcement came this time last year that DreamWorks was up for sale. (Dan seems to like Flags, too, for what it’s worth — he gave it a Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes.) But in light of the disappointment of FlagsI actually don’t think it’s the second coming of Saving Private Ryan, as many other critics seem to feel — Dan’s smart, concise history of the ten-year saga of DreamWorks, and his assessment of just what went wrong, becomes even more pertinent.

And more fascinating. Dan turns the tale of how three of the most powerful men in entertainment went down in flames with what should have been a surefire, unqualified success into a tragedy of the arrogance of hubris. You want to cheer the chutzpah of Steven Spielberg, David Geffen, and Jeffrey Katzenberg as they attempt the impossible — launch a new movie studio, which hasn’t been successfully done since 1919… but then their daring turns to audacity as they refuse to give it their all and let the venture, from the start, coast almost on their names alone. Dan demonstrates how DreamWorks’ downfall was inevitable, and his telling of it is like watching a train wreck in slow motion. This is sure to be a definitive book on the late studio, and movie fans interested in the messy sausage-making that goes into film production will find The Dream Team an unexpected cracker of a read.

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