Review: 'Forces of Nature' a tempest in a teacup
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By Reviewer Paul Clinton
(CNN) -- "Forces of Nature" is really an updated version of that old tried-and-true 1930s or '40s formula, the screwball, romantic comedy, road picture.
Ben Affleck plays Ben -- this is a pet peeve of mine, with all the names out there, why on earth use an actor's real name, unless it's a sitcom named after a comedian (as in Roseanne). Otherwise, it looks like the actor has trouble remembering who they're playing.
Anyway, Ben/Ben is a straight arrow, nice guy. He's just trying to get to from New York to Savannah, Georgia in order to marry the girl of his dreams -- played by Maura Tierney, best known for her continuing role on the TV sitcom "NewsRadio."
Sandra Bullock plays Ben's exact opposite. She's Sarah, -- see? Sandy, Sarah, close but still different -- anyway she's an eccentric free spirit who just happens to be headed in the same direction. Through a series of wild and wacky coincidences they find themselves traveling together, and maybe even falling in love -- yadda, yadda, yadda.
What choice do we have?
At the heart of this film is the question, do we have choices in life about who we fall in love with, or is everything predestined? Not an original premise, but it can be an effective one.
Both Bullock and Affleck are extremely likable actors with tons of charisma, and "white bread," "take home to Momma," sex appeal. They make a great pair.
Things start out just fine when they're first thrown together. Of course, they met cute. They're sitting next to each other on a plane that has an aborted takeoff. All the rental cars at the airport are taken so Sarah/Sandy bums a ride with a drug dealer going south and takes Ben/Ben along.
They get busted, jailed, get out. Yadda, yadda, yadda. Then Ben/Ben does a strip show at a gay bar -- in the middle of nowhere -- in order to earn much-needed funds, and as odd as it sounds, this scene actually works. But gradually, the contrived plot devices get harder and harder to swallow as they go farther and farther south -- as does the movie.
I kept waiting for the plot to kick in. And waited and waited and waited. Director Bronwen Hughes, who did "Harriet the Spy," does everything but stand on her head to try and breathe life into this baby. Wildly creative camera work, slow motion, and huge helicopter shots all fail to make this movie gel.
Two irrational plot points also made me grind my teeth. Throughout the film a hurricane is approaching Georgia -- which of course hinders our couple's journey and gives the movie its title -- along with the hormonal forces working on our two stars. Get it? Forces. Nature. Cute.
So why then, at the climax of the film, is there this huge, expensive outdoor wedding in Savannah in the middle of a hurricane? Again, can you spell contrived? Maybe someone thinks that bridesmaids flying around like the Wicked Witch of the West is cinematic.
The other plot point: In one scene, Bullock jumps off a train wearing nothing but very tight pants and a tank top. She couldn't be carrying a toothpick without the audience seeing it. How then, in the next scene, does she lose a big fat wallet? Exactly where was she holding it? I don't want to know.
This movie will have a huge opening weekend due to the marquee value of the stars involved, but I'm not sure how this very non-Hollywood ending will play with Bullock and Affleck fans. Overall, there are great moments in this film, but the sum of its parts just don't add up to a satisfying whole.
"Forces of Nature" is rated PG-13 with a running time of 100 minutes.
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