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click for full sized poster

Forces of Nature

Starring Sandra Bullock, Ben Affleck
Written by Marc Lawrence
Directed by Bronwen Hughes
website: http://www.asylum.com/forcesofnature

IN SHORT: Passable date flick. [Rated PG-13 ]

The theme of mismatched travelers thrown together in increasingly haphazard situations has been done before, last in the slapstick comedy of Planes Trains and Automobiles with Steve Martin and John Candy. Forces of Nature follows a similar track, though the emphasis is heavier on the romance rather than slapstick. Similar themes don't mean copycat stories and I wouldn't have written this 'graph except I'm trying to stave off a batch of e-mail asking "Didn't someone else do this story..."

In Force of Nature's adequate story, which doesn't pay a lot of attention to details or the sequence of time, New York dwellers Ben (Ben Affleck) and Bridget (Maura Tierney) fly separately to her homestead in Savannah Georgia because of the film's opening gag, which I won't reveal. The scared-to-fly Ben packs up Bridget's wedding dress (you figure it out) and plants himself in a center seat between a divorced tools salesman (Steve Hytner) and a dressed in black babe who slowed up the check-in line due to some heavy duty lip-lock with her main man. Said plane promptly skids off the runway and Ben "saves the life" of Sarah (Sandra Bullock), becoming her traveling companion in the process because he won't get on the next plane and she has to be in Savannah, like, now. Which doesn't explain a trip to the rental car counter instead of an New York's Amtrak terminus, except that it sets up the next gag.

Some kind of disaster strikes every leg of their journey, whether via rental car, train or bus. That doesn't include the danger of a growing hurricane off the east coast. The interpersonal stuff is pretty much a given as, on the way to Savannah, Ben finds himself more and more in doubt about his nuptials while his attraction to the free spirited Sarah grows. It also hasn't helped that every word of congratulations or encouragement has come from singles and couples who are either cheating, unhappy or divorced. A helluva way to kick off a date flick . I won't even start to go into Sarah's backstory, which is pretty heavy duty or Bridget's growing doubt as ex-beau Steve (David Strickland) makes a heavy last ditch play for her.

One night in K-mart and one at a South Carolina motel later, it's two days on, according to the script. By Cranky's calculation, two nights usually fit in between three days, but that's a minor complaint. As the film goes on, the script pushes coincidence to the breaking point. It works for the first two methods of transport, but then a lie that got our happy couple on a condo selling tour bus comes undone when the Best Man (Steve Zahn) and Maid of Honor (Meredith Scott Lynn) just happen to show up at the exact same location in South Carolina where their bus has stopped. (This pair is driving, too. Yeah. Like New Yorkers drive...)

Improbability aside, Forces of Nature is fairly predictable. If Cranky proceeded to analyze like a film student, Forces of Nature would go down the crapper without a second thought. Sandra Bullock's free-spirited makeup, makes her look absolutely hideous. She overcomes that and when she lets loose in a strip joint, not what you think, it's more than enough thumpa thumpa. Ben Affleck's character/ performance could be cloned from Adam Sandler's nicer moments in The Wedding Singer.

Cranky's personal notes: The cinematography (Elliot Davis, D.P.)is gorgeous. So are some of the special effects (by PDI, the same group that did Antz). The first time the stormclouds unloose and hail falls on our unlucky couple you will immediately recoil in expectation of a music video sequence, the effect is that gorgeous. Despite the compliments, and they are compliments, these things should never drag your attention away from the story playing out on the screen. In Forces of Nature they do.

Affleck and Bullock have good chemistry. There's enough date-weight, painless humor that, even when you think you know what's going to happen, Marc Lawrence's script has got at least one surprise up its sleeve. Even if you don't believe what you're seeing, the story moves at a good pace and not everything is as predictable as you think it's going to be.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Forces of Nature, he would have paid...

$4.50

Just a shade under the normal date-flick level. Forces of Nature isn't hard to sit through, though it's just a run of the mill dater. Fine for popcorn and petting when you get bored. Cranky heard more positive comments from the women at the sneak preview than from the men. Us guys all hated that the timing made no sense. The women I spoke with all liked something specific to the story that I won't give away. Sorry.

The Cranky Critic website is Copyright © 1995  -  2016   by Chuck Schwartz. Articles by Paul Fischer are Copyright © 1999 - 2006 Paul Fischer. All images, unless otherwise noted, are property of,©, ®, their respective studios and are used by permission. All Rights Reserved. Not to be used or copied for any commercial purpose. Academy Award(s) and Oscar®(s) are registered trademarks and service marks of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.