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Published: Friday, 3/16/2007

'Premonition' poses a puzzler of life and death

BY BARBARA VANCHERI
BLOCK NEWS ALLIANCE

Premonition is, at its most basic, a ghoulish version of Dead or Not Dead.

The previews and TV commercials call to mind one of the cheesiest pop-culture moments of all time: Bobby Ewing in the shower on Dallas. As you may remember, it turned out he wasn't dead after all and the previous season had been a long dream.

Premonition, to its credit, is higher-minded than that and blessed with Sandra Bullock as its star. She plays Linda Hanson, a homemaker, wife, and mother of two young daughters. Shortly after the movie opens, a sheriff comes to the door with the news that her husband, Jim (Julian McMahon from Nip/Tuck), died the previous day in a car accident.

She is not only devastated but somewhat puzzled, since she had just listened to an answering machine message from him. Linda picks up her girls from school and tells them the sad news, rebuffs her visiting mother's suggestion that she think about funeral arrangements, and falls asleep.

When she wakes up and heads downstairs the next day, she sees Jim's briefcase and coat - and Jim, drinking coffee and watching TV in the kitchen and heading off to a Monday morning meeting. But the previous day had been Thursday, and that is one of the keys to Premonition, a thriller that toys with the time element and all that means in matters of life and death.

If you knew an accident was looming, would you be able to prevent it? If you realized a dad's time with his girls was limited, would you encourage him to make the most of it? And just who would you confide in while trying to make sense of a jumbled week?

Premonition, directed by the German-born Mennan Yapo, does some things well: It occasionally uses silence rather than music to set the mood. It doesn't demand that Bullock weep and rend her garments but take action. And it keeps the audience guessing while dispensing some thoughts on faith, hope, and (all too stingily) the perils of premonitions through the ages.

The fact that Linda's days are mired in routine or run one into the other - rushing the girls to school, sorting laundry - plays into the idea of a shattering week when one day is distinctly different from another. On the down side, Premonition seems like a Rubik's Cube that needs a few more twists and turns to make the colors line up.

I will set aside the fact that Kate Nelligan, who turns 57 today, plays the mother of Bullock, who will be 43 in July. Casting Nia Long as Linda's best friend scores some points for diversity and smarts, although she's not given much to do.

On a more nagging note, an accident at home later triggers a hysterical reaction, considering there are multiple people who could attest to what happened. Bullock's chemistry with McMahon is not off the charts, although they are not newlyweds, but there is a funeral mishap of the sort that happens only in the movies.

The ending feels like a compromise, designed to give the audience something to grab onto while leaving the theater. You may want to scare up a sheet of paper like Linda does and start plotting it out; no matter the day or the death, Premonition may hold your attention, but not blow your mind.

The Block News Alliance consists of The Blade and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Barbara Vancheri is the movie editor for the Post-Gazette.

Contact her at: bvancheri@post-gazette.com.



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