Rated PG-13 - Running time: 1:46 - Released 3/19/99

Sandra Bullock has established herself well as a quirky star of of romantic comedies; sort of Julia Roberts’s crazy sister. That style suits her well in Bronwen Hughes’s Forces Of Nature; she gets a great deal of enjoyment out of an enjoyable role. Opposite her and not having nearly as much fun is Ben Affleck, who is forced to play straight and miss out on most of the film’s many good lines.

Affleck is Ben Holmes, a nice guy from New York about to be married to a nice girl from Savannah. He and his fiancée Bridget (Maura Tierney) are so in love it's sickening. He's so devoted, he can't even enjoy the raunchy bachelor party thrown for him the night before he flies south for the wedding. But the party finally ends, and Ben gets ready to confront his fear of flying and make the trip. In Savannah, as the nuptial plans enter the final stages, Bridget anxiously awaits his arrival.

On the plane Ben meets Sarah (Bullock), apparently still wearing her costume and makeup from Practical Magic. After some uncomfortable conversation, Ben's worst fear is realized — the plane wrecks during takeoff. No one is seriously hurt, though Sarah does suffer a minor head injury, but all flights are canceled and everyone must find alternative transportation.

So Ben and Sarah begin a journey plagued by difficulties, using every mode of transportation from car to train to bus to spinning sombrero. During their odd odyssey, they predictably become more than friends, and Bridget and the wedding party are left waiting at the altar, wondering with increasing skepticism whether the ceremony is going to happen at all.

Written by Marc Lawrence, Forces Of Nature has a decidedly anti-marriage message until the final 10 minutes, when Lawrence caves in to the pressure of political correctness. Every character in the film except Ben and his betrothed Bridget, including their parents, are either 1) divorced and bitter about marriage, 2) married, but unhappy, or 3) married and happy, but only because they’re having extramarital affairs. I won’t pass judgment on this choice, but it does seem interesting, since the "me generation" is coming of age (and divorce seems to be more and more a natural consequence of marriage), that so many films adopt such a stance.

As I mentioned, Bullock seems to really be enjoying herself in this role, and Affleck is uncomfortable. I don’t know whether this is because his role dictates it or if it’s just a natural reaction, but it works. Supporting characters are mainly two-dimensional with the possible exception of Tierney, who plays Bridget with a modicum of depth. Forces Of Nature features nice music (by John Powell) and some interesting cinematographic choices (by Elliot Davis), and, mixed messages aside, provides a nice diversion. ****

Copyright 1999 by John R. McEwen and The Republican

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