March 14-20, 2007

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I should have known this would happen: Sandra Bullock realizes that 'Premonition' won't save her career after all.


That little voice in your head, telling you to avoid 'Premonition'? Heed it.

By Richard von Busack

IN Premonition, Sandra Bullock stares down into the spine-chilling abyss of fear, indicated by a signpost reading "Your Career." Can she afford another flop? Even devoted fans of this Titian-maned yet nextdoorsy actress have to agree: No. If anything, this would-be horror film is a mate for The Number 23 in pure ineptness. But Premonition is worse. Indeed, it's a family-values special fit for Jerry Falwell himself. Bullock's Linda Hanson is caught between two lives. In one version, she is a devoted wife who takes her kids to school, chats with her gal pals over the shopping cart and tenderly affixes stickers to the sliding glass door in her house so her two daughters don't brain themselves. In the other life, she's widowed, one of her daughters has scars from crashing her face through the glass and her husband is a decapitated corpse. This may be justice, since he was romantically intrigued by Claire, a colleague from work. (Claire is played by Amber Valletta, "continuing her successful transition from supermodel to actress," sez the press notes). Also lurking about is a bearded psychiatrist (Peter Stormare), who might be trying to drive Linda nuts. He feeds her Lithium and keeps a straightjacket ready for her. But Linda believes that the visions of these horrors may be a warning from beyond, given to her to save her husband from a fatal traffic accident.

Premonition doesn't have nearly enough ambiguity. A better-cast movie would have given us an actor who could go either way, either as cheating car salesman or devoted spouse. Here we have Julian McMahon as the husband, so we can spend the movie trying to figure out if McMahon really dyes his eyebrows to make himself more sinister, or if they're just naturally like twin caterpillars of evil crawling on his forehead. A hint: If you want a man to play a devoted husband who might, just might, be straying, don't pick an actor whose last significant role was Dr. Victor Von Doom.

Premonition offers a cavalcade of cheap effects to create suspense: shock cuts that don't shock, neodocumentary camerawork that only looks annoyingly crawly and hopeless attempts to ground a bewilderingly looped plot with reflexive dialogue ("History is full of unexplained phenomena"). Director Mennen Yapo never creates a spell of ambiguity. Katrina prevented the original plan to shoot in New Orleans, and so Yapo filmed in the suburbs around Shreveport. There's no edge to the happier of Linda's two realities; Yapo just stares at the middle-class world and finds it all beautiful. And Linda is the kind of happy wife who only has doubts about her husband but no regrets for herself. Thus the film thwarts its most natural market as a woman's picture. No woman wants to see a lady obediently taking off a man's shoes for him. And they especially don't want to see Bullock doing it. Finally, a religious sequence implies that Satan created this whole mess by putting a vacuum of faith in Linda's head. Yapo and scriptwriter Bill Kelly's (Blast From the Past) idea of a woman's paradise involves a husband who has the good sense to die rather than to cheat, and who leaves her undisturbed to mind her kids. It is her natural business as a woman, and the only thing she needs to know.

Movie Times Premonition (PG-13; 110 min.), directed by Mennan Yapo, written by Bill Kelly, photographed by Torsten Lippstock and starring Sandra Bullock and Julian McMahon, opens March 16.

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