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Friday, March 19, 1999

Romantic drizzle

Movie: Forces of Nature

Posted on Fri, Mar 19, 1999 at 4:00 AM

**
Our Rating: 2.00

In Jonathan Demme's 1986 sleeper, "Something Wild," conservative everyman Jeff Daniels got sucked into the hurricane created by walking disaster Melanie Griffith, to great comic effect. The much less potent "Forces of Nature" basically takes the same premise, adding without effect some philosophical spoutings on the nature of love and commitment.

Young New Yorkers Ben (Ben Affleck) and Bridget (Maura Tierney) are set to be married at her parents' plantation home in Savannah. Traveling to Georgia to join Bridget, the hapless Ben encounters his first bump on the way to the altar when the plane crash lands. The second bump is sitting next to Ben -- Sarah (Sandra Bullock, who doesn't get to use her own first name), a grunged-out chick who wreaks havoc wherever she goes. Due to an approaching hurricane, all flights are canceled, so the mismatched travelers set off for Savannah by land. The attraction that develops between the two causes Ben to seriously doubt his love for his bride-to-be.

Much like "Something Wild," "Forces of Nature" pulls the straight-laced Ben into outlandish situations at the hands of free-spirited Sarah. But Bullock never establishes an air of danger, as Griffith did so expertly. Other than a makeover and some swear words, Bullock delivers the same sweetness that audience members have grown to either love or loathe.

For his part, Affleck doesn't convince us that he's reeling from the effects of the couple's heated friction. We don't believe that he would even consider a last-minute wedding cancellation. Even the many musings from married couples on the dangers of commitment that are thrown Ben's way make us conclude that the only reason he doesn't head off with Sarah is that he knows they have no true chemistry.

Too bad supporting characters Steve Zahn and Meredith Scott Lynn, as the best man and maid of honor, who also end up as traveling companions, aren't given more screen time, because they do achieve a great charm as at-odds road partners.

Director Bronwen Hughes ("Harriet the Spy") doesn't effectively build up both the literal and figurative storms approaching the Georgia coast. By midfilm, the hurricane that could bring unexpected turns downgrades into a mild tropical storm.

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