It's unlikely that Knowing will become a classic YouTube howler like The Wicker Man (go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e6i2WRreARo to enjoy the hilarity), but this latest dud starring Nicolas Cage does bring to mind the title of MAD magazine's Close Encounters of the Third Kind spoof. With its plotline involving extraterrestrials, a kid in potential peril, and a man obsessed with uncovering the truth behind unexplained phenomena, this could easily have been tagged Clod Encounters of the Absurd Kind.
Sober in its intentions but laughable in its execution, Knowing begins promisingly, as a letter written by a little girl in 1959 finds itself, 50 years later, in the hands of John Koestler (Cage), an MIT professor whose wife died in a hotel fire a year earlier and who now must raise his son Caleb (Chandler Canterbury) by himself. Koestler soon figures out that the piece of paper, on which the child scrawled nothing but a lengthy series of numbers, actually foretold all the major disasters of the past five decades (well, all the disasters that resulted in deaths, as it appears the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections were not included). The problem is that three of the prophesied disasters have yet to occur, leaving Koestler in the unenviable position of trying to figure out how to stop large-scale tragedies from taking place. Meanwhile, a group of shadowy figures spend their time trailing young Caleb; they're meant to appear menacing, but that's hard to accomplish when they basically all look like Sting impersonators.
Knowing was directed by Dark City's Alex Proyas, although it feels like the sort of poorly defined spiritual salve that M. Night Shymalan concocts in between preening sessions in front of the mirror. But early discussions regarding destiny versus randomness soon get sidestepped for one CGI set-piece after another, most of them hampered by mediocre effects work (and tasteless, too; did we really need to see blood repeatedly splatter on a runaway subway car window as it rams into each successive victim?). Eventually, the film elicits little more than misplaced chuckles, as awkward acting (particularly by Cage and unpromising child actor Canterbury), lulls in logic, and a cameo appearance by The Fountain's majestic tree combine to make this a movie not worth knowing about, let alone watching.