Barry's Review of Next
by Barry Wurst
April 28, 2007
Remember a few years back when the weekend before the summer season started, Mean Girls, Godsend, Laws of Attraction and Envy all opened in theaters against one another? Like Next, they were also victims of the "leftover junk weekend", when the studios release the films they had little or no faith in and want to toss out into theaters, collect the damage and move on. I remember that particular weekend of '04 well, because, of those four, Mean Girls is a surprisingly great movie, one that played out during the summer season and ended up being one of the year's best films. The other two weren't as memorable, while Envy certainly was … as the worst film of 2004. As much as the industry and film buffs roll their eyes at the films that crop up this weekend, I always want to give the "leftover junk weekend" releases a fair chance, since it did give us Mean Girls (which, prior to the rave reviews, had an awful trailer and looked dreadful).
The highest profile of this weekend's releases, Next, is better than I expected but no classic. You know the plot from the trailers: Nicolas Cage plays a magician with psychic powers that enable him to see two minutes (give or take) into the future. He falls for a damsel in distress (Jessica Biel) and is pursued by a federal agent (Julianne Moore) who wants to use his abilities to avoid a major catastrophe that will take place in the near future.
Here is yet another Philip K. Dick story that got turned into an action movie, but this one is better than Paycheck and, despite being both laughable and ludicrous, it's pretty entertaining. The acting isn't the draw here - Moore's clenched jaw performance suggests she's playing a variation on Sam Gerard (Tommy Lee Jones' role in the The Fugitive) but her work is unappealing. Biel runs hot and cold and mostly makes pin-up poses (which she does often and quite well, for those who care - you know who you are!). Cage, well, one of his co-stars describes him this way on-screen: "odd". That about sums it up for me, too. Not a bad performance, but one that ranges between lazy to just plain goofy.
The movie's gimmick, that Cage's clairvoyant powers allow him to literally dodge obstacles moments before they occur, is a good one and the best thing about the film. Yet the material isn't fresh, as some scenes recall Minority Report and Groundhog Day (but thankfully not Ghost Rider). Also, the script doesn't play fair with the concept - sometimes Cage can see two minutes into the future, sometimes two seconds, sometimes more, sometimes less. It all depends on the contrived timing of the screenplay. Without giving anything away, I'll say that the ending isn't a cheat, exactly, but it doesn't feel entirely right. Still, the more outrageous the movie gets (wait till you see dozens of Nic Cages running around!), the more exciting it gets. Director Lee Tamahori may have made another expensive B-movie (along with XXX: State of the Union, another guilty pleasure), but he knows how to milk the action sequences. As pre-summer movies with Cage go, this one is as dumb as Gone in 60 Seconds and almost as much fun. I expect Next to do well and be one of those alternative choice movies you see when Spider-Man 3 and Shrek 3 are sold out. It may sound like faint praise, but you know what, I didn't think National Treasure was all that good either and it was a crowd pleaser and a big hit. This one is crowd pleasing, dumb, and pretty diverting. I think it will be a serious hit - or not - wait 2 seconds to find out.
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