In 1994, Speed hit theaters and was an instant box office and critical hit. It was lightning in a bottle. A killer plot. Perfect casting. Artful execution. It went on to win two Oscars while catapulting both Keanu Reeves's and Sandra Bullocks's screen careers into the A-list echelon. Following its massive success, 20th Century Fox released a sequel in June 1997. After all, what could be so hard to recreate? Simply write its two charismatic leads on a vessel rigged to explode if it drops below a certain speed, and boom! You've got another blockbuster. And yet, Speed 2: Cruise Control would not only miss the mark but become known as one of the worst sequels of all time. In fact, even Sandra Bullock recently said she regretted doing it. This month, the flop turns 25 years old. Naturally, I had to rewatch. And while some box office bombs have aged better with time (like, say, The Wizard of Oz or Clue) or are just so bad they're fun to watch (see: John Travolta's recent catalog), I regret to inform you that Speed 2 is just plain bad.
Sandra Bullock’s Worst Movie Ever Turns 25 This Month—Naturally, I Had to Rewatch and, Yeah, It’s Bad
It's like someone said, let's take Speed, but lower the stakes and make it way more expensive
The original flick has a genius logline: If the pedestrian bus drops below 50 miles per hour, grade-A villain, Dennis Hopper, will explode the damn thing. The movie is kinetic from the jump. Roger Ebert wrote: "Films like 'Speed' belong to the genre I call Bruised Forearm Movies, because you're always grabbing the arm of the person sitting next to you. Done wrong, they seem like tired replays of old chase cliches. Done well, they're fun. Done as well as 'Speed,' they generate a kind of manic exhilaration." So Speed 2 producers must have read reviews like this and said, "Let's do the opposite." Instead of a placing the non-stop action on a bus zipping through the chaotic streets of Los Angeles, we find ourselves on a cruise ship going who-knows-how-many knots-per-whatever in open water. The stakes are immediately lower because there's nothing around for the ship to crash into—not even an iceberg. When the villain, played by a creepy Willem Dafoe, reprograms the ship to crash into an oil tanker, most passengers on board have ample time to leave. Even the title of the film, "Cruise Control," also known as "autopilot," implies everything is chill.
Jason Patric has no joie de vivre
Sandra Bullock is charismatic, gorgeous and very, very charming and funny. Watching her in this role reminded me why she became America's sweetheart. Jason Patric, however, never reached the same heights as his co-star, and yet his character got to do all the fun action stuff and save the day while Bullock was just kinda along for the ride (minus a great chainsaw moment). Patric is humorless, kinda dead-eyed and doesn't really seem like a dude you'd want to drink piña coladas with. In other words: There's a Keanu Reeves-sized hole in this film.
The film begins with a lie: Patric's character has told his girlfriend (Bullock) that he's a beach patrol officer when, in fact, he's actually on the SWAT team. He's told her this because of her traumatic history with "crazy men." Solution? He takes her on cruise where he plans to propose. Strike one.
Strike 2: Then there's the villain's storyline. He's the former cruise engineer who "designed the systems" but was then fired because of copper poisoning for which he uses leaches to help suck blood out? This would be a fantastic villain backstory in a Marvel picture. For a movie about a cruise ship, it's just so random.
Strike 3: And then there's the $25M crash scene (which equates to the entire budget of the first film), where Patric "saves the day" and yet a massive cruise ship still crashes into an island, defying physics by inexplicably traveling inland, destroying boardwalks, homes and almost killing a dog! We should have just evacuated and let it explode on the ocean floor.
Somehow it has the reverse effect: I Wantto go on a cruise?
A film about a cruise ship disaster shouldn't make you want to book a cruise—especially one where you have to sit with strangers at dinner (what a nightmare). It'd be like watching Titanic and thinking, "Let's book a third-class ticket on an early 20th-century transatlantic steam ship." And yet...here I am considering a cruise vacation. The reggae music, the steel drums, the golden sun—if Speed 2 is anything, it's a vibe. Twenty-five years later, Sandy may regret the movie, but I hope she at least enjoyed Saint Martin.
Hear more on "Speed 2" in this week’s episode of PureWow's hit entertainment podcast, Stream On, at the 32:00 mark. Plus, the episode has the hits and misses of the week, the Reese Witherspoon flick you need to rewatch and why Patricia Heaton is pissed about Pixar's "Lightyear."