Premonition belongs to that reliable supernatural Hollywood subgenre: narcissistic wish-fulfillment. This film’s premise is that one family tragedy — the highway death of a husband and father of two — is of such cosmic import that the fabric of space and time will fold in itself so that the grieving widow (actually, she doesn’t do much grieving at all) may have a more psychologically complete experience. Premonition is a misleading title, because what’s happening (as far as I can tell) is more of a cross between Groundhog Day and Slaughterhouse Five. For reasons that go mostly unexplained, Linda Hanson (Sandra Bullock) lives the days of the week surrounding her husband’s untimely death out of chronological order — she learns that he’s been killed, but in her suddenly unordered life, the date of his actual death hasn’t yet arrived. That gives her a few days of moving forward and backward in time, trying to figure out how she might save his life. The screenplay suffers from all the logical problems that bedevil time-travel movies, which are compounded by the dopey conventions of supernatural movies — this one has a freak electrical storm, a dead crow, an accident involving plate glass, and one of those cynical you-can’t-cheat-death flourishes that’s in fashion these days.
Bullock is a reliable mainstream actress whose steely glare and self-composure here makes her character’s impotence more frustrating. You might wonder what would happen if Linda pulled an all-nighter with a good book and a pot of coffee, but this is a woman who can’t manage to set an alarm clock or even figure out what day of the week it is without making a phone call. A few scenes suggest, tantalizingly, that Linda might actually be a little crazy, or at least calculatingly vindictive, but any serious efforts to develop her character were abandoned in the Avid. Even less interesting is her vacuous husband, whom Julian McMahon (Nip/Tuck) plays as a completely cold fish. That would be a mistake in a movie that was at all interested in actual human beings, but Premonition is too lazy to bother.
The film is finally of note for two scenes that make an unsuccessful push into so-bad-it’s-good territory. In one, a priest (Jude Ciccolella, formerly a regular on 24) suggests that Linda’s moments out of time are attributable to her failure to attend enough church service. (“Nature abhors a vacuum,” he shrugs, in reference to her faithlessness.) And in another, as a hearse pulls into the driveway of a funeral parlor, Linda suddenly charges toward it, demanding that her husband’s casket be pulled out and opened. The flummoxed attendants try to oblige, but — butterfingers! — drop the casket into the street, whereupon Linda’s dead husband’s decapitated head bounces across the pavement. The editorial frenzy that attempts to convey this spectacle in PG-13 fashion is so inadvertently hilarious (OK, I was the only one at the multiplex matinee who was giggling at this) that it made me yearn for the over-the-top, R-rated version of Premonition, replete with sex, full-frontal nudity and Final Destination-level graphic violence. It might not do as well at the box office, but it would eventually become a schlock classic. C-
A version of this review was originally published in the White Plains Times.