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Next: Predictably Bad

In Next, the action/sci-fi thriller based on a short story by Philip K. Dick, Cris Johnson (Nicolas Cage) has a special gift that is also a burden: he can see two minutes into the future — only his — and he can also choose an alternate outcome. “Every time you look at it,” he says of the future, “it changes because you looked at it, and that changes everything.”

In a sense, I, too, had the ability to look into the future within a few minutes of viewing Next. I knew I was in for about an hour and a half of ridiculousness, but unlike Nicolas Cage’s character, I was unable to change the outcome for the better. To find out just how bad it gets,

Traumatized by a lifetime of being poked and prodded by authorities wanting to exploit his abilities, Cris hides out in Vegas, performing as a magician in a cheesy Vegas lounge act under an assumed identity, “Frank Cadillac.” When Next begins, terrorists have stolen a nuclear bomb and threaten to detonate it in Los Angeles and Cris is being pursued by FBI special agent Callie Ferris (Julianne Moore) who wants him to use his clairvoyant powers to prevent the disaster.

The first sign that I was in for an unintentional comedy was Nicolas Cage’s appearance. Cage has never been considered a great Hollywood beauty, but his hangdog appearance once lent comedic poignancy to such screen gems as Raising Arizona. In Next, the aging Cage is caked with too-dark makeup and sports the ugliest hairdo I’ve ever seen on a leading man. (For the record, it’s a straggly page boy.)

This walking embalmed look, needless to say, does nothing for his credibility as an action hero or love interest. When Ferris observes Cris on a surveillance video at the casino, it’s his performance taking down a would-be casino robber that seals her decision to pursue him. As they play cat-and-mouse, the foreign terrorists become interested in Cris as well. The bulk of the film involves these warring sides chasing after the prized clairvoyant in dramatically staged action scenes.

As if this ludicrous storyline wasn’t enough to have me laughing out loud (“FBI and Global Terrorists Pursue Grizzled Vegas Magician to Save The World — or L.A. — from Nuclear Holocaust”), in comes love interest Liz (Jessica Biel), the only premonition of Cris’s he’s had for years. One day she arrives at the diner where he waits for her every day and an unlikely series of events turns them into lovers in no time. Sample dialogue cementing their love? “I like rain.” “I like rain, too.”

Jessica Biel has a pretty thankless role as Cage’s love interest. Her job in Next mostly consists in her looking surprised (in soft focus) at Cage’s revelations and pursing her distractingly glossy lips. But it’s Julianne Moore’s performance I was most disappointed in. Instead of assuming an air of authority, Moore overplays Agent Ferris’s tough act, spitting out lines like the bullets she shoots at target practice. Okay, Moore, we get it... you’re butch.

Next has some decent special effects (Nicolas Cage nonchalantly dodging bullets, splitting into multiple figures) and plot twists one would expect from a film that plays with time — but not much else. It has a silly storyline, miscast leads, and laughable dialogue. I predict you’ll be hearing about Next at an awards show soon — the Razzies. In the meantime, I’m going to wash my movie-going eyeballs out with another film. Next, please!

Photos courtesy of Paramount Pictures

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