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Forces of Nature

Trapped on the road to conformity, nice young men and women are happy to be waylaid by unmanageable forces. Or at least that's how it happens in the screwball comedies of the 1930s. More recently, in Honeymoon in Vegas, In and Out, and Flirting With Disaster, the weirdness began with the heroes: Nicolas Cage, Kevin Kline, and Ben Stiller, three actors who seem, even at the best of times, to be on the verge of becoming unhinged.

Now comes Forces of Nature, the story of a nervous groom-to-be who must contend with all manner of disasters on the way to his lavish Southern wedding and Hawaiian honeymoon. Unfortunately, the hero is played by the extremely unflighty Ben Affleck, who has no hinges to speak of. He is a solid wall of manhood. When he's cast as the go-to guy, as he was in Good Will Hunting, he's cool, tough, and reliable. Opposite a surprisingly raunchy Sandra Bullock, who plays the mysterious, moody woman he meets during his journey, Affleck never lets down his defenses. And why should he? He's got a rich, decent fiancée (Maura Tierney) waiting for him in Savannah. In short, he's too sturdy and sated. And you can't have screwball comedy if only one party desperately wants to screw.

The script, by Marc Lawrence, is a well-constructed, if chilly, road romance, with some great throwaway lines. Director Bronwen Hughes seems to favor the oddball minor characters, like the hero's tipsy, genteel future in-laws (Ronny Cox and Blythe Danner), and certain scenes— like Affleck's impromptu strip dance— don't go far enough. By the time a computer-generated storm arrives, throwing the wedding ceremony into disarray, Forces of Nature is less about the anarchic powers of love and sex than it is about the bond between a man, a woman, and two nonrefundable, first-class airline tickets.

 
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