Science fiction author Philip K. Dick has been around Hollywood more than most, with adaptations of his works running the gamut from excellent (Blade Runner, A Scanner Darkly) to okay (Minority Report, Total Recall) to shitty (Impostor, Paycheck). Next is the latest film to oh-so-loosely base its plot on one of Dick's works (in this case, the 1954 short story "The Golden Man")—and as sci-fi action thrillers starring Nicolas Cage go, it's pretty impressive that Next manages to be neither science-fiction, thrilling, or even have that much action.
Cage plays Cris Johnson, a Vegas magician whose shtick is that he can see into the future. Catch is, he really can—but only for two minutes, and only with things that directly involve him. Sure, this helps with Cris' goofy magic act and at Vegas' blackjack tables, but it's otherwise useless, so Cris spends most of his time inexplicably hanging out with Columbo himself, Peter Falk, who here looks like he's about to die from either old age or boredom.
But of course the government (represented here by a fantastically bland Julianne Moore) wants Cris to do their dirty work, and of course Cris hooks up with a Token Love Interest Who Soon Becomes a Damsel in Distress (Jessica Biel). Cage plays the same character he's played in every movie other than Leaving Las Vegas, Moore clearly needed to make a house payment, and while I want to be charitable and say that Biel's just miscast, that assertion's hard to back up when she's apparently been miscast in every role she's ever had.
Focusing less on sci-fi and more on cheap CG, Next also throws in some bits of Native American mysticism (sigh), the threat of a nuclear explosion (snooze), and French terrorists (seriously?). But worst of all, director Lee Tamahori insists on using a supremely annoying tactic to show off Cris' precognitive visions: In one scene, Cris is driving a car when WHAM! It gets hit by a train! Oh no! But wait: REEEEE-WIND! Turns out that was one of Cris' visions—so this time, Cris slams on the gas and speeds ahead, avoiding the wreck! Or: Cris is at home playing pool with Columbo when the feds bust in and catch him! Oh no! REEEEE-WIND! Turns out that was one of Cris' visions—so Cris leaves before they show up! Or: In the final moments of the movie, a nuclear bomb explodes, killing every single character and half the western seaboard. Oh no! REEEEE-WIND! Guess what?! Turns out the WHOLE GODDAMN MOVIE WAS ONE OF CRIS' GODDAMN VISIONS—so in addition to being boring, everything in Next is totally pointless!
Sorry. I usually don't give away endings. But if you were thinking about seeing Next, consider that spoiler a glimpse into your movie-going future. According to Next's tagline, "If you can see the future, you can save it." Whatever. At least now you can save yourself the price of admission.