Clinging tenaciously to a Noo Yawk accent not many in Noo Yawk actually sport much anymore and pinning her defiantly unkempt bangs off her face with bobby pins, Sandra Bullock does no favors to either her career or her fans in Two If By Sea. In fact, if you had never encountered Bullock’s patented brand of appealingly unglamorous, warm-eyed gal before this dispiriting production, you might think the star of Speed and The Net was nothing more than a Marisa Tomei knockoff.

Bullock plays Roz, a 30-year-old bookstore cashier from working-class New York City, who has been going steady since forever with Frank (Denis Leary), a 35-year-old small-time thief from working-class Boston. Roz agrees to participate with him in one more heist, after which Frank has promised to go legit. All the two have to do is deliver a $4 million painting by Henri Matisse — ”Henry Mattis,” Roz calls him — to some fancy buyer in a Waspy hamlet off the coast of New England. Roz is resourceful, Frank is bumbling; Roz entertains dreams of self-improvement, Frank can’t think beyond tomorrow. Obviously they’re made for each other. They just can’t realize it until they squabble and cavort and, along the way, uncover the existence of a really serious art thief.

What hood these two met in is none too clear, but that’s the least of Two If by Sea‘s problems. The biggest one is that this leaden comedy, cowritten by Leary and Mike Armstrong and aimlessly directed by Australia’s Bill Bennett (Spider & Rose), is so tediously pointless, directionless, and colorless that it’s hard to muster the slightest interest in anything the lovebirds do. I mention the age of these characters because they are two participants in a tired, worn-out pattern of baby-boomer-bred love stories between girlish women (think Bullock, Tomei, Meg Ryan, Julia Roberts) and boyish men (Hugh Grant, Eric Stoltz, Johnny Depp) that all seem to require piggybacks as a winsome expression of affection between adults. When Leary — once so freshly spiky in his humor, now completely sanded down — hoists Bullock at the end of their caper, I think you hear me knocking; and I think I’m leaving the theater. D-

Two If By Sea
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