Next marks Paramount’s second HD-DVD exclusive high-definition title following Blades of Glory and last new theatrical release by the studio until the third HD-DVD title destined to trump them all, Transformers. On paper, Next reads like a slam dunk hit: Nicholas Cage playing yet another reluctant hero, Cris, with the ability to see two minutes into his own future; a shimmering wet Jessica Biel in a towel; Julianne Moore trying to be tough like Jodie Foster and failing miserably; and multiple special effects sequences, including the detonation of a nuclear device featured prominently in previews. Maybe not the Julianne Moore poor casting decision and their yang, vanilla terrorists; however, the only real obstacle Next needed to hurdle was telling a compelling story. This is where Lee Tamahori’s translation of the Philip Dick story goes shockingly awry.
The Next script gets so caught up in what’s about to happen that it never takes the time to explain what just happened, or why it did. Cris finds himself on the run from Moore and the FBI as well as and terrorists within the film’s opening minutes with no explanation given as to how these groups discovered his power and ultimately determined he was the key to either preventing or ensuring a nuclear device will be detonated in Los Angeles. Just like that, Cris is on the run with his only pit stop being a diner he frequents twice a day in hopes of finding a woman whose future he’s been able to see well beyond his own two-minute limit.
More strange is the appearance of Peter Falk playing, assumedly, a Whistler role from Blade to Cris. Assumedly because we meet Peter for all of 60 seconds and then he’s gone for good. The “why” Peter is hanging it in a garage in the middle of the night and “how” he knows Cris remain a mystery.
What really throws Next into a wild tangent is the inconsistent use of Cris’ abilities to solve sticky situations he finds himself in. Everytime Cris looks into the future it changes, because he looked. So theoretically, he could look 120 times for two seconds into the future and see a different outcome every single time. When Chis attempts to woo Liz (Biel) at a diner after he’s had visions of her, he replays picking her up over and over again until it finally works. Other times, such as when Cris is caught by the FBI, we don’t see any replays of what’s transpiring, but he do see Cris making superhuman decisions on the fly. He should have replayed getting caught over and over until he found a way out of it.
It’s unfortunate Next falls apart as Cage and Biel are generally likeable and oddly make a great couple, however forced their relationship may come across. Everything beyond their dialogue exchanges and natural charisma are throwaway nonsense devoid of fun, the action sequences included, leaving Next no place to go other than backwards for a laughable and unimaginable Bob Newhart Show conclusion.
Paramount left a solid impression with Blades of Glory and their fine presentation work in the early days of their HD-DVD exclusive agreement has carried over to Next. The AVC MPEG-4 is nearly grain-free rock solid when it needs to be, most notably during an avalanche sequence in the Grand Canyon. A bouncing camera and loads of active CGI are presented naturally and not artificially with enhancement or other annoyances. Audio support is spearheaded by a solid lossless Dolby TrueHD 5.1 soundtrack that really comes to life in the aforementioned avalanche sequence and a couple scenes involving gunplay and a brief car chase. The balance between loud noise and dialogue is effectively spot-on.
A number of featurettes comprise the majority of supplemental materials offered with Next, all of which are presented in 1080i or 1080p high definition. Paramount’s usually good with loading new theatrical releases up with several hours worth of interviews and making-of material, but with Next, they’ve taken a less-is-more approach with the longest featurette, Making the Next Best Thing, running a mere 17 minutes. This featurette is mostly a collection of interview snippets from the cast, director and producers, while the remaining three featurettes focus on special effects, filming in the Grand Canyon, and asking Jessica Biel if she’d like to have Cris’ powers in real life. Other than these quick snippets, the only other extra feature is a lone Theatrical Trailer in high definition.
Next flew under the radar at the box office and for good reason. It’s a film you desperately want to like and root for its stars, but a convoluted plot and poor storytelling shred any hope of enjoyment within the opening act. Several months from now we’ll look back at Next and remember it only as the title Paramount chose to give lossless audio to over Transformers, and as another satisfying appearance of Jessica Biel in high definition.
- Overall: 7.6
— Dan Bradley