Web Exclusive: ""Next""

    With the tagline “”If you can see the future, you can save it,”” director Lee Tamahori’s new action-packed sci-fi thriller “”Next”” should have been a hit, right? Wrong. While even the most remotely intelligent individuals will know better than to spend $10 on this “”Mission Impossible”” poser simply based on the preview, for the sake of eliminating any sort of curiosity, picture this: an aged Nicolas Cage claiming clairvoyance while desperately attempting to convince the audience that it is in fact possible for Esquire’s Sexiest Woman Alive 2005, Jessica Biel, to fall in love with him.

    If you get past the fact that Cage could play Biel’s father, the premise is guaranteed to at least superficially entertain. Not only is Cage’s character – Cris Johnson, a Las Vegas magician – blessed with the ability to see two minutes into his own future, but, drum roll please, he is the only person alive with the power to save humankind and the world as we know it. Urgently sought out by government agent Callie Ferris (Julianne Moore) to help track down a nuclear device under the control of a terrorist group in Los Angeles, Johnson is forced to give up gambling, and instead dusts off his superhuman visions and “”Matrix”” moves for the good of his country. So, perhaps with a hint of subliminal patriotism, Cage and on-screen girlfriend Biel team up in a heroic attempt to save the American people from the foreigners with a WMD.

    The inherent misfortune underneath this jumble of high-speed chases, explosions and bad pickup lines is the idea that screenplay writers Gary Goldman, Jonathan Hensleigh and Paul Bernbaum seem to have intended their project to be taken seriously. Unfortunately, all potential respect is lost after Moore’s straight-faced usage of dramatic phrases like “”nuclear alert,”” “”code red”” and the cringingly trite “”matter of national security.”” Not to mention the wash of pure joy Cage gives us when receiving psychic visions – all squinted eyes, pursed lips and a slight tilt of the head.

    As predicted, Johnson’s supernatural power becomes increasingly more detrimental than beneficial and eventually leads to a “”philosophical”” analysis of destiny. Alas, the film finds itself in an unsettling limbo between “”Groundhog Day”” and “”Buffy the Vampire Slayer.”” With unbearably dry dialogue and a whole mess of useless characters, “”Next”” is just one more notch on Hollywood’s dead-action belt.

    And to think Nicolas Cage could do worse than “”Ghost Rider.”” Whatever happened to the days of “”Face/Off”” and “”The Rock””? Even Julianne Moore is getting better roles. The film makes one thing clear for sure: Long locks aren’t going to get Cage his career back anytime soon, and he’s certainly not getting any younger. Too bad the writers couldn’t see into this movie’s future.

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