speed (sped) n. Swiftness of action. The state of being in rapid motion.
Speed 2 (sped too) movie. Slow. Lumbering. Interminable. Cannot end soon enough.
Sometimes you've said all you have to say, which certainly is true of the makers of the taut, entertaining 1994 megahit "Speed." Their sequel, "Speed 2: Cruise Control," lacks the key ingredients of the original: an involving plot, wit and sustained suspense. Maybe they were in too big a hurry.
The sequel reunites director Jan De Bont with Sandra Bullock, who, as terminally spunky Annie Porter in the original, became the most famous bus driver since Ralph Kramden. In this outing, both the setting and the mode of transport have gone upscale as Annie and her new boyfriend, an L.A. cop named Alex (Jason Patric, replacing Keanu Reeves, whose character, we learn, was dumped by Annie), take a Caribbean cruise aboard a luxury liner, the Seabourn Legend.
Because Annie is poison to anything that moves, one of her fellow passengers turns out to be John Geiger, the deranged designer of the Seabourn Legend's computer system. Geiger (Willem Dafoe) is a disgruntled employee and terminally ill to boot, and he soon seizes operational control of the ship. We know this is bad thanks to endless shots of passengers with their mouths open.
The open mouths are an important tip-off because the film itself doesn't generate any terror. Forget for a moment that a big, fat cruise ship on the open seas lacks the visceral thrill of a bus hurtling through crowded streets. The biggest shortcoming of "Speed 2" is that it lacks the clever conceit of its predecessor, the idea that a bus will explode if it slows down. So much of the suspenseful fun of "Speed" was watching Annie keep the bus going fast.
But "Speed 2" serves up no similar form of mischief. It's not altogether clear what Dafoe is doing or what he wants. Is this a jewel heist or a quest for revenge? Is he planning to run the boat aground? Blow it up? Navigate it onto the set of Regis and Kathie Lee? Hard to know.
De Bont, who also directed "Twister," doesn't so much build momentum as laboriously position "Speed 2" for a finale, which, in truth, does finally deliver some punch along with a bit of unintentional comedy. A luxury liner crunching through a chi-chi resort isn't exactly Godzilla ripping through Tokyo.
Poor Willem Dafoe ("The English Patient"). He's got a great face for villainy, with the best wall-to-wall demonic grin this side of the Grinch. But he's not given room for really inspired evil. Caution to filmmakers: Homicidal maniacs are never scary when they do their dirty work by punching buttons on a computer keyboard.
On the side of good, Patric is even blander than Reeves in the original. He races from heroic scene to heroic scene without the slightest trace that he's considered his actions. It's as though he's merely following the instructions of a board game. Community Chest: "Jump on lifeboat and save passenger." Chance: "Dive below ship to jam propeller."
At least he's not irritating, which brings up the unfortunate case of Bullock. Action heroes are best when they are charming, winsome and witty. Bullock is inane, annoying and whiny, like someone overly exercised about being given a Diet Coke instead of the real thing.
"This hijacking is all so so inconvenient," seems to be her attitude. She's not the driver this time around, so Bullock's character has little to do except make self-congratulatory references to the first movie. It doesn't help that the script reduces her to issuing playground threats.
"You just stay away from me," she warns Dafoe, "or you're going to get hurt, I swear."
To which the unfortunate Dafoe replies, "What are you going to do, pour water on me?"
dumb (dum) adj. "Speed 2: Cruise Control."
'Speed 2: Cruise Control'
Starring Sandra Bullock, Jason Patric and Willem Dafoe
Directed by Jan De Bont
Released by 20th Century Fox
Rated PG-13 (violence and language)
Sun score: * 1/2
Pub Date: 6/13/97