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NextNext on DVD

That title pretty well sums up our opinion: toss this one away and see what's up next.

It's too bad; this adaptation of a Philip K. Dick story has some neat ideas, but in the end we felt cheated by its ending as well as by its shortage of logic.

Nicolas Cage is Cris Johnson, a low-tier Vegas magician whose act works because he really has magical powers. Or powers, anyway. He can see the future, but not in a crystal ball way: he can only see his own future, and only up to two minutes ahead. This brings him to the attention of the Feds, as personified by Callie Ferris, who I guess has nothing else to do than research obscure Vegas acts hoping to find the next great crime fighter (did Superman once work as a circus strongman, too, before being discovered?).

She's figured out his act is real and pretty much nailed his capabilities, and now (over the objections of her compatriots, who in another movie would look like the smart ones) wants to enlist him in their quest to foil some blond headed, blue eyed terrorists (Presbyterians, perhaps?) who have a nuke.

Meanwhile, Cris has discovered an interesting new wrinkle on his power. He sees a woman (Jessica Biel), but since he didn't come across her within two minutes knows that somehow his power is different with her – and that must mean it's destiny for them to be together. So he uses his Spidey sense – sorry, future sense – to figure out different opening lines he can use on her - and the next thing you know they're heading off to Arizona in her Land Cruiser.

If we were Cris, we'd use the future sense to sit in Vegas sports books  and place bets on games that are about to be won in come from behind victories in the final two minutes, but that's just us – and we admit freely that Back to the Future did a much better job of the time travel motif than Next does. But we digress….

Somehow (it may be explained in the movie, but if so we missed it), the terrorists also have a bead on Cris, so he's actually running from both sides. Who will grab him, or off him, first? Well, we know it won't be the bad guys 'cause otherwise this 96 minute ordeal would be over in 60 – which come to think of it may not be a bad thing. But the terrorists can't shoot worth a darn, which is probably why they need a nuke to do their dirty work, and it's the feds who get their talons into Cris first. And since he's seen a vision whereby his new love (Biel, though all they've had so far is a one night stand) doesn't make it to the closing credits he decides to throw in his lot with the good old U.S.A. (If he'd done this earlier we could have also saved a half hour of basically standard chase stuff).

So we end up in Los Angeles, after the bad guys have kidnapped Biel's character, in a race against time. Or is it?

The Los Angeles sequence is one of the lengthier ones of the flick, and that makes the whammy at the end of it even harder to take. Did they really only have enough material for a one hour movie and have to stretch it?


Okay, Cage is fine, as is Moore, though she comes off as a bit of an airhead (albeit one who can shoot well), and Biel is appropriately decorative. And it was neat to see Thomas Kretschmann along as the head terrorist. He last came to our attention in Peter Jackson's masterful retelling of the King Kong classic, and we liked him there – though he doesn't have a lot to do here.

It's a shame that Next fails. We remember off the tops of our heads three terrific sci-fi movies that have been based on the work of Philip K. Dick: Blade Runner, Total Recall and Minority Report. This movie isn't fit to hold their water. Maybe there's a good two or 2.5 hour movie in here trying to get out, and if so we'd love to see it again (though the L.A. debacle makes us doubtful), but as it stands currently, this is a movie to avoid.

The picture quality of our anamorphic widescreen review copy was very soft, though this appears to have been a conscious decision on the part of the movie makers (maybe Cage or Moore are getting a little long in the tooth for sharp close-ups?). It's too bad, because it helps add a sense of unreality to a movie in which it's very difficult to suspend your disbelief in the first place.

Audio is Dolby Digital 5.1 surround and it's fine.

Extras include "Making the Next Thing", "The Next Grand Idea", "Two Minutes in the Future  with Jessica Biel" (we only made it one minute) and "Visualizing the Next Movie." All told, they're as good and as interesting as the film.

Next, from Paramount Home Entertainment
96 min. anamorphic widescreen (16x9 TV compatible), Dolby Digital 5.1 surround
Starring Nicolas Cage, Julianne Moore, Jessica Biel, Peter Falk
written by Gary Goldman, directed by Lee Tamahori

Jim Bray's columns are available through the TechnoFile Syndicate.

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