Nicolas Cage can't seem to catch a break these days. After three of his star vehicles from the last two years (Lord of War, The Weather Man, and The Wicker Man) failed to live up to expectations, his latest qualifies as a bona fide bomb. Paramount spent in excess of $70 million on Next (rated PG-13 for violent action, profanity, and sexual situations), but it garnered only $7.1 million on its opening weekend, making it a long-shot to break even at the box office.
It wasn't for lack of solid source material, based as it was on a short story by legendary science fiction writer Philip K. Dick. In other hands, Dick's writing has produced some of the sharpest sci-fi adventures in modern cinema (both Ridley Scott's Blade Runner and Steven Spielberg's Minority Report were based on his novels). However, this adaptation feels like a hastily written term paper. The concept behind it is fine, but the execution is terrible.
Chris Johnson (Cage) possesses a special ability that allows him to see a few minutes into his future. For most of life, he does little with this talent beyond two-bit magic shows and small-time gambling. But when an FBI agent (Julianne Moore) gets wind of his gift, Chris finds he must use it not only to save millions of people from nuclear holocaust, but also the girl who allows him to see further than he ever has before (Jessica Biel).
Such a frenetic plot line naturally lends itself to tight pacing, and in this respect Next more than lives up to its promise. The problem is with the acting. Every performance here is wooden and unconvincing, as though the director used the first take of every scene.
Compounding the issue is the creepy coupling of Cage and Biel. Only in Hollywood is the romance between a 25-year-old girl and a 43-year-old man portrayed as destiny. Next stands as a lesson for would-be sci-fi/action directors: Unless you inspire your cast to render their lines with more emotion than cyborgs, audiences will likely pass.