Posted in Film

The Sandra Bullock Files #19: Two if by Sea (1996)

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The Sandra Bullock Files is a series that looks at the films of Oscar-winning actress Sandra Bullock, all the way from her debut in 1987, to her two major 2018 releases, Ocean’s Eight and Bird Box.

Sandra’s first major misfire after the huge success of Speed was the atrocious, barely released comedy Two if By Sea, starring Sandra and Denis Leary as a mismatched couple being hunted by the police for stealing a painting worth millions. Dumped into theaters in early January 1996, and grossing only $10 million at the domestic box office, the movie is so awful that the studio didn’t even screen it for critics. Despite decent performances from Sandra and Leary, Two if By Sea remains one of Sandra’s weakest efforts.

It’s hard to imagine that Sandra actually committed to this film after big hits like Speed — in every way this movie feels like something shot in the early ’90s and released years later to capitalize on her success. So it’s remarkable to note that she actually pursued the project, and was not Leary and the director’s first choice.

She tries her hardest in every scene to do something, anything, with this bland material, and she even sports a decent New Jersey accent, but this time, even her charm and youthful exuberance can’t save a horrible screenplay. What did Sandra see in this project? She and Leary were co-stars in 1993’s Demolition Man, so maybe they were friends at the time, and Sandra wanted to work with him again?

When asked about this film by Pete Hammond at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival in February 2010, Sandra said that part of the reason this movie failed was because of her involvement in it. Leary co-wrote the film, and he originally wrote a more offbeat, likely more interesting, script. But with Sandra in the movie, the executives at Warner Bros. wanted the film to appeal to audiences who loved her in films like While You Were Sleeping; thus, they watered the story down into a lame romantic comedy that has little romance or comedy.

This movie has no idea what it wants to be. The most entertaining scene is the opening, with the couple bickering back and forth in a car as a bunch of cops speed toward them. If the whole movie had been like the first five minutes, a more comedic version of Bonnie and Clyde, with Sandra and Leary on the run from the cops, there might have been something entertaining here.

And how much more fun would this movie have been if Sandra had played a more ruthless, villainous criminal on the run? A character who really went in the other direction of the innocent ones she had played in her last three pictures? But instead, the two main characters settle down at a vacation home about twenty minutes in, and the movie unfolds as a dull examination of their rocky relationship.

Even diehard Sandra fans don’t have much to enjoy here. There’s one funny joke in the whole movie: the local police department work out of a video store. That’s it. Sandra and Leary have little chemistry, the story goes nowhere, and the uninspired happy ending feels like another cloying moment forcibly tacked on by the studio.

While the shockingly bad All About Steve, another comedy where Sandra rocks a weird blonde hairdo, is much, much worse, this film is still a missed opportunity. Two if by Sea is something that with a different distributor and more confidence in the original script could have been something unique on Sandra’s resume, but as it stands, it’s her first disappointment post-Speed.

Best Scene: Sandra and Leary try to have sex in the back of their car.

Best Line: “Honey… SHUT UP!”

Fun Facts

Sandra discovered she was allergic to horses while filming this movie.

Known in the UK as Stolen Hearts.

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