September 2, 2012

SPEED 2: Keanu Reeves...Super Genius

Starring Sandra Bullock, Jason Patrick, Willem Dafoe, Glenn Plummer, Tim Conway. Directed by Jan de Bont. (1997, 121 min).

Now we know how people felt all those centuries ago when their once-sacred belief that Earth is the center of the universe was proven to be wrong. Ever since Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, we all assumed Keanu Reeves was an idiot because of his perpetually vacant expression and a voice that made him sound like bong hits were part of his nutritious breakfast. Even in the classy period pieces he’s appeared in (like Dangerous Liasons), we still expected him to end each line with “dude.” (yeah, I know making fun of Keanu’s speech is about as fresh as cop & doughnut jokes, but tell me I’m wrong). Our low assessment of his intelligence was only strengthened when he chose not to do a sequel to Speed, the biggest hit of his career at the time. What the hell was he thinking?

But when the sequel came out, we had to swallow our pride and grudgingly admit maybe Keanu wasn’t such an airhead after all, because Speed 2: Cruise Control is one of the dumbest fucking movies ever made. You don’t even have to look beyond the title for evidence of the stupidity awaiting the viewer; I doubt there’s a soul on the planet who associates velocity with cruise ships, unless your idea of speed is scooting your ass along the carpet like a dog with worms. Things only get worse from there.

The movie has Annie Porter (Sandra Bullock) and her new boyfriend, L.A. cop Alex Shaw (Jason Patric), taking a vacation on a cruise ship. Also onboard is John Geiger (Willem Dafoe), a psychotic computer designer suffering from copper poisoning (he uses leeches to help purify his blood), who has a nefarious scheme to hold the entire ship hostage by taking control of its computer guidance system. Only Alex, with Annie in tow, can stop the madness.

While Hollywood has belched forth more than its share of dumb and contrived sequels for the sake of eeking out a few more bucks, what’s amazing about Speed 2 is that it’s helmed by the same director, Jan de Bont, who was apparently hit on the head with a hammer and forgot everything about what made the first film so good. With the talent involved and the amount of money spent (this one cost three times more than the original), how is it possible to put out such an inept piece of putrid poo? Sandra Bullock doesn’t even seem to be playing the same character as she did in the original; here, she's more annoying than a roomful of Gilbert Gottfrieds. The story and dialogue is worse than the lame-ass crap Irwin Allen lurched out in the last years of his life.

Then there's Tim Conway in one of the dumbest cameos I've ever seen, playing a hapless driving instructor. This happens right at the beginning of the movie, has nothing to do with the plot and only succeeds in convincing the viewer that Speed 2 is gonna blow. Did CBS stiff him on residuals from all those years on The Carol Burnett Show and he now needed the money? Was he sick and tired of doing Dorf on Golf videos? Whatever the reason, it takes a special effort to cast someone as inherently funny as Conway and still fuck up a scene.

Annie: "Hey...what is that in your pocket?"
Alex: "Don't worry 'bout it, baby. Just hold still and...and...ahhhhhh."

As for the climactic scene where the ship crashes into a coastal hits at a whopping seven miles per hour and dropping (yeah, there's some speed for ya). The sequence is punctuated with unintentionally funny shots of a bug-eyed, panicked helmsman frantically counting down the reduction in speed to no one in particular, one mile per hour at a time. Even when the ship has slowed to a crawl, he still has the same terrified look on his face as though he were riding shotgun with Dale Earnhardt.

Sure, it's almost a given that most sequels aren't as good as the originals. Still, say what you want about George Lucas...The Phantom Menace sucked, but I doubt anyone can honestly say he wasn't at least trying. And of course, it isn't as though the original Speed challenged the intellect. But here it's like everyone involved were handed a boatload of money and still didn't give a shit. Speed 2 is sort of a slap in the face to anyone who loved the first movie. It's even worse than Highlander 2, mainly because the original Highlander was kitschy to begin with, so no one had such lofty expectations.

But if someone gave me $110 million, I’d have at least gone through the motions to make it look like I cared.

So I guess this makes Keanu Reeves some kind of super genius. I’m sure he once crept into the back row of a theater sometime in ’97, took in Speed 2 and walked out thinking he just dodged a bullet, proud of his superior intuition.

On the other hand, he does have the Matrix sequels to answer for.

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