A lot of Lee Tamahori's "Next" is ridiculous. Much of the flick is also strained, ludicrous, unrealistic, or just plain wacky. It's got an unconvincing romance, a few spotty FX scenes, and a handful of sequences that could best be described as "outlandish." But it's also a quick-moving genre-twister that, for all its shortcomings and obvious flaws, never once gets boring. Say what you will about the egregiously "out-there" story divergences and the blatantly obvious plot holes, but there's something to be said for slightly-intelligent yet still mindless entertainment that delivers a few juicy goods over the course of 90-some minutes.
Nicolas Cage plays a low-rent magician who also has the uncanny knack of seeing two minutes into his own future. He tries to keep this talent hidden, but the FBI (for some reason) has been tracking the guy; they want his help in apprehending some nearby terrorists who have a nuclear bomb. But selfish ol' Chris Johnson isn't interested in saving a few million people from nuclear annihilation, so he hits the road, stopping only long enough to hook up with his stunningly hot dream girl who somehow manages to "lengthen" our hero's precognitive talents. And believe me, this is the simplest plot synopsis of "Next" that you're ever going to read, because the flick often feels like three different movies that we re-cut and wedged into a 90-minute frame. Much like "Deja Vu" from a few months back, this semi-smart sci-fi thriller straddles a fence between cleverly smart and surprisingly stupid ... but most of it is still fun anyway.
Cage returns for what seems like his 11th role of the year, and does his typically Cage-ish job of anchoring the flick. His Cris Johnson is sort of a generic schlub, and it certainly doesn't help when your flashy sci-fi action hero is sort of a generic schlub. Also along for the ride is a plainly disinterested Julianne Moore, who clearly can't wait to be finished with her role of "Seriously Grumpy FBI Agent" and get off-camera already. The aforementioned hottie is played by the appropriately gorgeous Jessica Biel, and yes, she does play Nicolas Cage's love interest. (Just consider that part of the "science fiction" section of the movie.)
Although it moves at an appreciably brisk clip, part of the reason that "Next" goes down so smoothly is because it was obviously chopped and re-chopped at the last minute. The "time-jumping" gimmick serves to mask some of the editorial gaffes, but there's little denying that plot holes abound, that supporting characters go missing, and that the "big finale" arrives with more of a wheeze than a rush. Some of the special effects are quite nifty indeed; others require a large dose of charity from the viewer. (And some, including a third-act cloning effect that had my fellow viewers chuckling, that just aren't necessary.) It's a mixed bag all the way, basically. Every time I found a component worth savoring, something clumsy would crop up to ruin the fun.
Taken as a colorful-yet-mindless spectacle, perhaps in the vein of a feature-length "Twilight Zone" episode, "Next" is a perfectly entertaining little time-waster. But when you realize where the original story comes from (Philip K. Dick's "The Golden Man") and how much better the flick could have been, well, "Next" can't help but feel more than a little underwhelming. Diverting, slick, and kinda fun, but also sloppy, choppy, and a bit disappointing.