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Movie Review

In this occasionally romantic comedy, a conservative guy (Ben) and a free-spirited girl (Sarah) meet during an airline mishap. After that, the film degenerates into a basic Hollywood "road" picture. He's on his way to marry the lovely, level-headed Bridget. She's desperate to outfox and jettison an abusive husband in order to reconnect with a 10-year-old son from a previous marriage. The pair encounter sundry setbacks on their journey south. Will Ben, who finds himself attracted to Sarah, go through with his nuptials? At its philosophical core, this film ponders the value of marriage, the quest for personal fulfillment and whether wedded bliss is even possible.

Positive Elements: Despite having a stripper thrust upon him at his bachelor party, Ben declines sex with her. [Spoiler Warning] He is loyal and monogamous to the point of marrying his fiancée instead of throwing their love away for the intriguing, sexy woman he just met on an unscheduled road trip. Sarah playfully connects with the little boy sitting behind her on a train. She regrets allowing selfishness to come between her and her own son, and strives to improve that relationship. Sarah gives Ben sound advice regarding how to treat a wife and maintain a healthy marriage by describing things she, sadly, never received herself. Ben's father tells him how pleased he is to be married to his mom. In the end, Ben learns to loosen up and have fun with his bride, while Sarah develops a more functional perspective of life and love. The final word on marriage is that spouses have it within their power to make marriage great.

Crude or Profane Language: A few crude expressions and nearly a dozen profanities (including one s-word, an f-word and numerous exclamatory uses of Jesus' name). At one point, Sarah expresses her frustration with Ben by hoisting both middle fingers in his direction.

Sexual Content: A stripper dances suggestively around Ben. To the obvious embarrassment of those around them, Sarah and her husband are inappropriately affectionate. In the hotel room she shares with Ben, Sarah walks around in front of him clad only in bikini underwear. Also, the camera examines her nude silhouette as she prepares to bathe. An elderly couple explains how they're having an affair, and are happier than ever (includes talk of orgasms). A confused Bridget necks with an old boyfriend the night before her wedding. Bridget's mom defends President Clinton's adultery ("I voted for Clinton; all the best Presidents sleep around"). Desperate for cash, Sarah and Ben offer to put on a show at a gay bar that includes Sarah doing a sexually provocative dance as she undresses Ben for cheering patrons—a disturbing display.

Violence and Verbal Abuse: Ben gets into a brief fistfight with Sarah's abusive husband. It seems everyone they meet between New York City and Savannah has a horror story about marriage. One man calls his ex-wife a "lying whore and adulterating pig." Both Ben and Bridget's parents spend more time sniping at each other than demonstrating affection. A husband and father warns that kids suck the very life out of a marriage. Another husband whines that "marriage is just one big lie" just before he makes a play for Sarah. In a voice-over, playwrite and novelist Oscar Wilde is quoted as being anti-marriage.

Drug and Alcohol Content: A drug dealer gives the duo a lift from the airport. While driving, he lights a joint and shares it with Sarah. Alcohol flows at a bachelor party and wedding reception. When her groom is late, Bridget drinks straight from the bottle, apparently during an uncharacteristic binge to deal with stress.

Summary: After an hour and a half peppered with miserable testimonies decrying lifetime commitment, Forces of Nature spends its final 10 minutes deciding that the institution of marriage isn't inherently good or bad, but that it simply reflects what people invest in it. A worthy conclusion. But those final moments of healthy idealism are vastly overshadowed by scene after scene of selfish moaning, nastiness and regret. We're left with a few shots of wide-eyed dreamers frolicking on their honeymoon compared with about a dozen "experienced casualties" who have painted legally binding monogamy as a drudgery to be avoided at all costs. So much for equal time. That lopsided portrayal of lifelong fidelity, along with the film's sexual misconduct and profanity, made it impossible for this reviewer to walk away a Nature lover.

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Sandra Bullock as Sarah; Ben Affleck as Ben; Maura Tierney as Bridget; Steve Zahn as Alan; Blythe Danner as Virginia


Bronwen Hughes ( )





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Bob Smithouser

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