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'Speed 2': That Sinking Feeling

By Desson Howe
Washington Post Staff Writer
June 13, 1997

Maybe Sandra Bullock figured she couldn’t lose. No matter how bad the sequel to "Speed," it would have to give her some kind of boost, right? She would attain presence on the summer screens.

Possibly, she felt duty-bound to reprise the role (as Annie) that transformed her career. Whatever her motivation, nothing clouds this unequivocal fact: "Speed 2: Cruise Control," in which Bullock and Jason Patric tangle with a runaway superliner, sinks faster than a rock.

The 1994 "Speed," which starred Bullock and Keanu Reeves, was hardly "King Lear" on a bus, but it was an entertaining ride. But this movie is nothing but pain to sit through. Patric’s affair with Bullock, supposedly the central thrust of the story—is the romantic equivalent of code blue. And I’ve seen more nail-biting, hair-raising excitement on "The Love Boat."

When we meet Annie again, she’s having a driving lesson. (She couldn’t drive in the first film, remember?) Time may have been kind to her looks, but it’s wreaked havoc on her brain. She seems to have evolved into the giddiest bimbo since Betty Rubble. Oblivious to the danger she’s causing behind the wheel, she cuts across lanes of blaring traffic, runs red lights, reduces her driving instructor (Tim Conway) to a sputtering wreck, and provokes a cop car into breakneck pursuit. This endearingly goofy behavior is enough to make us wish someone had pumped those bus brakes in the first movie.

In the same opening scene, Annie almost collides with Alex (Patric), her new boyfriend, who’s in the middle of a big-time bust. She thought he helped ladies across the street with the beach patrol; he never told her he was an undercover cop with the L.A.P.D. This produces the kind of formulaic lovers’ tiff that only Hollywood screenwriters could produce. ("I don’t even know you," says Annie.) But Alex pulls out a trump card: two tickets for a sea cruise to the Bahamas. Watch out Annie, these are actually tickets to the worst movie of the summer.

As the reunited lovebirds embark on the Seabourn Legend, they bump into irascible passenger, John Geiger (Willem Dafoe), who’s a walking time bomb. A psychotic computer expert, he’s the designer of the Seabourn computer system. Because the company forced him out when he got sick, he’s back with a disgruntled vengeance.

For the rest of this excruciating drama, we watch the unfolding of Geiger’s scheme. Systematically subverting the ship’s computer system, he pushes the captain overboard, then informs the First Officer (Temeura Morrison) the passengers will have to evacuate.

It’s up to Alex, Annie, some stalwart crew members to undo Geiger’s tamper-proof plans to set a course for mass destruction. In a series of increasingly mundane climaxes, Alex pulls passengers from a dangling lifeboat; saves a mute teenager from drowning like a rat; tries to snag the boat’s propellers with a steel cable; then attempts to stop the Seabourn Legend from a head-on collision with an oil tanker.

But there’s nothing he can do about his daffy girlfriend. At one point, she frees some trapped passengers by gouging a hole in a fire escape door with a chain saw. She tells them to come through the hole she’s made, but doesn’t realize her whirring chain saw intimidates them.

"If you’ll back off with the saw, we’ll give it a try," says a passenger.

"Oh, sorry," says Annie with a smile. No wonder Alex tells her to go up to the top deck with the other passengers.

SPEED 2: CRUISE CONTROL (PG-13) — Has mild profanity and violence. Designated driver’s alert: Contains material that could cause extreme drowsiness.

© Copyright 1997 The Washington Post Company

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