Forces Of Nature
Rating -

Comedy (US); 1999; Rated PG-13; 105 Minutes

Sandra Bullock:
Sarah Lewis
Ben Affleck: Ben Holmes
Maura Tierney: Bridget
Steve Zahn: Alan
Blythe Danner: Virginia
Ronny Cox: Hadley

Produced by Susan Arnold, Ian Bruce and Donna Roth; Directed by Bronwen Hughes; Screenwritten by Marc Lawrence

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Written by DAVID KEYES

The best way I can competently approach "Forces Of Nature" is by comparing it to actual natural disasters. Why? Take these factors into notice: a tornado spins throughout the atmosphere, picks up objects, and throws them to places we'd never expect them to be thrown to. "Forces Of Nature" spins throughout the plot, picks up characters without warning, and then dumps them into equally unbelievable locations and situations. An earthquake rattles the ground, and destroys large buildings from the bottom foundation. "Forces Of Nature" rattles the foundation of the plot structure and then crumbles without a hint of relief. In both nature and movies, these disasters occur without warning, but they could be easily avoided by taking the right precautions. More lives could be saved in earthquakes if they stayed in protective areas and did not panic. Less cinematic disasters like "Forces Of Nature" would be made if the director knew how to treat the script correctly, and the writer knew how to enforce a sturdy plot and reasonably intelligent characters.

To call the movie a disaster is doing it justice; "Forces Of Nature" is a shameless two-hour trip of lousy character interaction, daisy-head romance, anti-conclusions and disconnected human logic. The film stars Ben Affleck and Sandra Bullock as two people who accidentally meet and then fall in love, which is an okay idea for a movie, but not when it is executed in all the wrong ways. You sit there, feeling disheartened by the colorless chemistry of the two stars, and are then suddenly betrayed by a conclusion so distraught, so insubordinate and meaningless that you feel like booing the screen. And believe me, the audience of the opening-weekend showing knew how I felt. If the theater had been one of those old 1930's screening rooms, the ticket-taker would have forced me to stay after the movie and pick up all the popcorn and garbage with my bear hands.

Imagine a premise filled with millions of predictable formulas following a story written with the appeal of a sour grape. That's the way the film plays: it is about an ad salesman named Ben Holmes (Affleck) who is scheduled to wed the wealthy southern woman named Bridget (Maura Tierney) two days after the movie opens. Ben is scared of flying, but nonetheless is willing to board a small plane to make it to Savannah, Georgia, in time for the wedding. In a freak accident that causes the plane to crash (actually, it never even takes off), his life is saved by one Sarah Lewis (Bullock). She's a wild, quirky woman, capable of being witty and annoying all at the same time; after Ben's rescue, she becomes his 'servant,' so to speak, and follows him through the land on his way to the wedding.

The trip is, of course, filled with all kinds of careless dangers. Aside from their travels taking place on boats, trains, cars, etc., they encounter money shortages and mistaken identities, in which, at one point, Ben is mistaken for a doctor aboard a Senior citizen bus, and later, he is forced to strip in a gay bar so he and Sarah can earn some money to continue their seemingly endless journey.

All of these emergencies and situations revolve completely around Ben and Sarah, which makes for an exhaustive series of boring circumstances and brain-dead laughs. Perhaps that is because the script treats both characters in such a way that they cannot successfully develop an enjoyable chemistry for each other. One of the great things about a romantic comedy is watching two people charm the audience with their quick wit and charm. They work best if they are opposites yet similar enough enjoy each other's company. In "Forces Of Nature," Ben and Sarah are so opposite that neither is appreciative to the other, nor are either of them endearing to the viewer.

Even when Ben tries to develop an interaction between Sarah and himself, he goes about it all wrong. In one scene, for instance, after we see the true personality of Sarah (the cynical, 'live-for-the-day' type of attitude), Ben turns to her and says, "I haven't known you that long, but I think there might be something wrong with you." Of course, he'd say that: the movie is so dumbfounded that it gives us dialogue like this, even though we can realize all by ourselves that something is indeed wrong with Sarah. That isn't funny. If the writer thinks it is funny, I'd hate to see what his definition of 'unfunny' is.

Now where in the world does the ending fit into all of this? Nowhere. It's miscalculated. I feel obligated to reveal the resolution in this review, but I shall not do so; I will, however, freely call it the worst piece of trash ever labeled as an "ending."

The least a filmmaker could do is give us a conclusion that does not feel so disconnected from the rest of the movie, especially when the movie is not that good to begin with. A golden rule for most movies is that they require three separate acts to achieve completeness: an opening, a middle, and a conclusion. In this case, the third act could have been dropped, and the movie might have been a little better.

1999, David Keyes, Please e-mail the author here if the above review contains any spelling or grammar mistakes.
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