Directed by: Mennan Yapo
Starring: Sandra Bullock, Julian McMahon, Shyann McClure, Courtney Taylor Burness, Nia Long
At some point in Premonition (it hardly matters when, since the movie doesn’t know either), Linda Hanson (Sandra Bullock)—perhaps the last living Suzy Homemaker who hangs out laundry (and this woman does a lot of laundry)—is out tending to the wash when she slips on a child’s toy, propelling her to the ground with her hand landing smack on a disemboweled crow. Naturally enough, this gets crow blood and innards (approximately the amount one might expect from a small pig, but no matter) all over her hand. It’s certainly understandable that she might want to wash this off, but I’m not sure I buy the full-fledged freak-out that follows, with her dashing into the house (accidentally smearing a quart of bird gruel on the sliding glass door) and engaging in the kind of frenzied hand washing that suggests nothing less than an unfortunate encounter with a vat of sulfuric acid.
Nonetheless, I salute Ms. Bullock for this scene. This is hand washing at its finest. Indeed, this is hands down the finest hand-washing scene I have ever encountered. Lady Macbeth’s got nothing on her. These are Oscar-caliber ablutions. Unfortunately, this is the only time anyone is likely to associate the word “Oscar” with Premonition.
OK, so no one who saw the trailer actually expected Premonition to be good, but did anyone think it would be quite this bad? You go in feeling that it seems too much like a dozen other movies and that having seen the trailer you’ve pretty much seen the whole movie. But it isn’t long before you realize that not only is the trailer a model of coherence compared to the film itself, it doesn’t scratch the surface of the cosmic dumbness of it all. The basic premise is tepid stuff to begin with: A woman wakes up the morning after her husband, Jim (Julian McMahon, Fantastic Four), has been killed in a car wreck only to discover that the accident hasn’t happened yet.
Worse, the film feels like recycled tepidity. There’s a bit of The Sixth Sense (1999), a chunk of Groundhog Day (1993), a dollop of Déjà Vu (2006) and even a dash of Bullock’s own The Lake House (2006)—not to mention a serving of dumbed-down Slaughterhouse Five (1972). What there isn’t is a lick of sense. The screenplay by Bill Kelly (Blast from the Past) is a lot like the title character in Mr. Townsend’s famous rock opera, which is to say it doesn’t know what day it is. The progression of events—even allowing for the shifts in time—never jells as it bulldozes its way to the nonsurprise ending. Great whacking slabs of plot are left hanging like sides of beef in a meat locker.
Consider the whole “Linda is mentally unstable” subplot. First there’s the bizarre casting of Peter Stormare (8mm) as a psychiatrist. One look at this guy and the words “second opinion” loom large, but then he is the only shrink listed in the Yellow Pages of Linda’s phone book. (Then why is his office empty?) But that to one side, this whole aspect of the story leads to Linda being put away and pumped full of drugs (presumably for a fully explained accident), with the subplot then simply vanishing from the story. The sequence seems to exist solely because the film is structured so that approximately every seven to 10 minutes Bullock has to freak out.
First-time U.S.-feature helmer Mennan Yapo handles each of these freak-out scenes in the same manner: He crowds his hand-held camera in on Bullock and jiggles it wildly to try to convey the emotional intensity his star can’t generate. No matter how out of control Bullock gets, she always seems to be doing the comedy bit from 2002’s Two Week Notice where she looses her cool with an office stapler. Unfortunately, Yapo’s approach doesn’t really change this—as witness the funeral scene where she insists on seeing her husband’s decapitated corpse. All it lacks is Hugh Grant to come in from the wings and carry her off. Even without that, the funeral scene (yes, the coffin crashes to the ground, and yes, the head rolls out) is to unintentional comedy what the hand-washing scene is to sanitary practices.
As if all this wasn’t enough, Premonition finally topples over into truly strange last-minute preachiness, which makes even less sense than anything that’s gone on before in the film, and a finale guaranteed to alienate anyone who might find entertainment value in this preposterous mess. If this were in any sense a seriously intended movie, I’d hand it to Messrs. Kelly and Yapo for their boldness with the climax (even while groaning at its execution), but since Premonition is sheer popcornery, I merely question their sanity. Rated PG-13 for some violent content, disturbing images, thematic material and brief language.
— reviewed by Ken Hanke