The old adage states that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Recent years have brought us plenty of action in the form of thrillingly twisty mind-benders like The Usual Suspects, Memento, and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, to name a few. If the adage is correct, it only stands to reason that we will see some movies try to provide the trippy experience, only to fail miserably. Which brings us to Premonition, one of the most inept and unsatisfying head-trips I’ve seen to date.
Sandra Bullock plays Linda Hanson, a married mother with two young daughters. Although her marriage to husband Jim (Julian McMahon) has cooled off, Linda is still devastated when she finds out that he’s been killed in a car accident. The next morning, she wakes up and finds Jim in the kitchen drinking coffee, very much alive. The day after that, he’s dead again, and a sultry female co-worker (Amber Valletta) is sneaking around his funeral. A day later, Jim is alive and well once more, preparing to take a business trip with that same co-worker. Linda doesn’t know if she’s dreaming or hallucinating or, perhaps, just going crazy.
She makes a chart and realizes that she’s living the days of the week out of order. Confused, she consults her local priest who, amazingly, just happens to have a book about this kind of thing right here. (If I went to my priest with such a story, I am certain he would attempt an exorcism on the spot.) Armed with a newfound lesson, which I won’t spoil, Linda prepares to experience Wednesday – the only day left and, in fact, the day Jim dies. Perhaps, she thinks, there is some way to save him.
The plot of Premonition is more complicated than this, but I’ve attempted to simplify it for the sake of clarity (something this movie could have used more of). The good news is that there is a gem of a great idea in this film. The screenplay by Bill Kelly introduces themes of forgiveness and salvation that are unusually spiritual for a mainstream motion picture. The bad news is that those themes barely register because they are buried under a mountain of nonsense. To call Premonition melodramatic would be an insult to melodrama, which can be quite effective in the right hands.
I have to be honest and say that I frequently laughed when I wasn’t supposed to. The story often goes so far over the top that no other response seemed appropriate. For instance, when we see the car accident that “kills” Jim, we don’t just see a tractor-trailer truck smash into his car. No, the truck smashes into the car, drags it several hundred feet, then explodes into a fireball so massive that Michael Bay is watching this movie somewhere, envious at having been outdone in the pyrotechnics department. Even worse is a scene in which Linda, at her husband’s funeral, demands that the coffin be opened so she can make sure he’s really in it. There could be some drama in this scene were it not for the fact that it falls into comedy when the pallbearers conveniently drop the casket amidst all the ruckus. Then the scene goes a step further, as the lid pops off revealing the distinct wound that ultimately did Jim in. It’s all so ridiculous, and you start to focus on how ridiculous it is instead of focusing on what the movie wants to say.
Sandra Bullock seems to be going through some kind of existential crisis lately. Her last picture, The Lake House, also dealt with a woman who was trying to grasp the bending of time and space for the sake of a lover. That movie at least had interesting characters and scenes. Premonition, in contrast, is full of cardboard characters who never register in any meaningful way. Linda Hanson sulks and cries a lot, but who is she? We never really know how her marriage to Jim went soft, and she has no visible personality traits other than to walk around in a state of confusion. Bullock does what she can with the role – which isn’t much – but this certainly represents a nadir in her career. Thankfully for her, Premonition is the kind of film that won’t be remembered for its badness; it simply won’t be remembered at all. The film is destined to fall into the same black hole that houses such forgotten big star garbage as Eddie Murphy’s Holy Man or Julia Roberts’ Mary Reilly.
I suppose that this movie potentially could have provided some level of entertainment on a campy level. Regrettably, it takes itself far too seriously for that. The incessantly somber tone makes Premonition boring from start to finish. In spite of all the bizarre things happening and the occasional unintended laughter, I never become involved in the story. More time was spent looking at my watch, which I must have done at least a dozen times during the film’s 97-minute length.
There is nothing here to make the movie recommendable. It’s not suspenseful, it’s not fun to watch, and the twists and turns of the plot are as dull as they are predictable. Premonition is a shoo-in for my list of the year’s worst films, assuming that I can even remember what it is nine months from now.
( out of four)
Premonition is rated PG-13 for some violent content, disturbing images, thematic material and brief language. The running time is 1 hour and 37 minutes.
To learn more about this film, check out AskMen.com: Premonition
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