Friday, November 17, 2000

Total recoil

Movie: Bounce

Posted on Fri, Nov 17, 2000 at 4:00 AM

**1/2
Our Rating: 2.50

Not to be confused with the fabric softener of the same name, the generically titled "Bounce" arrived in theaters on the heels of several sure signs that its studio, Miramax, lacked confidence in the final product.

The romantic drama was initially slated for release last July 7, a mere week after the debut of summer event movies The Patriot and The Perfect Storm. At the insistence of its lead actors -- Oscar winners and on-again, off-again lovers Ben Affleck and Gwyneth Paltrow -- "Bounce" was moved away from that competition. The movie was subsequently trimmed by more than 30 minutes; in a final suggestion of trouble, reviewers weren't allowed to see the film until two days before its arrival in theaters.

Observers' instincts were correct. Despite the impressive romantic chemistry demonstrated by the attractive couple who publicists refer to as Benneth, "Bounce" is an entirely predictable, altogether bland addition to the resum? of filmmaker Don Roos.

The openly gay Roos, who penned "Boys on the Side," "Single White Female" and "Love Field," has said he wanted to jump into the commercial mainstream with his second directorial effort. (The first was 1998's The Opposite of Sex.) He's done precisely that. And the result is a ton of fluff.

For fans of the dark, irreverent "Sex," "Bounce" is a genuine disappointment. But those who are susceptible to the pleasures of sentimental tearjerkers may find some pleasure in this weepy tale of a relationship that's built on the ashes of profound grief. In that respect, it bears some resemblance to last year's turgid, interminable Random Hearts. Roos' film, to its credit, is considerably lighter. But its characters aren't necessarily more likable.

Affleck is Buddy Amaral, a hot-shot West Coast advertising executive with a surname that hints at his philosophy on life. He's a tough, power-hungry businessman who's willing to do what it takes to gain and keep clients. And he's an inveterate womanizer, eager to hook up with any available young prospect on the horizon and just as quick to dispense with partners who are likely to cramp his style.

Stuck in an airport bar in Chicago after his return flight to Los Angeles is delayed, Amaral strikes up a friendship with earthy playwright and TV writer Greg Janello (Tony Goldwyn), a father of two who's eager to get back home to sell Christmas trees with his 8-year-old son, Scott (Alex D. Linz). Janello, we immediately recognize, is a marked man.

Amaral thoughtfully gives his own ticket to his new pal, then returns to the bar to continue flirting with sexy acquaintance Mimi (Natasha Henstridge). Hours later, Amaral and Mimi wake up to the news that the plane has crashed.

"Bounce's" emotional trajectory is clearly laid out. Will the tough ad man discover his inner nice guy and feel sympathy for Abby (Paltrow), Janello's harried widow? Will Abby get over her grief quickly enough to fall for this handsome stranger?

Roos tosses in a few twists and turns along the way, including Amaral's sketchily detailed bout with alcoholism and a court battle fought against the airline, which happens to be Amaral's client. But if you determine that it isn't worth your time to stick around for the resolution of these minidramas, don't feel guilty about giving up your own seat.

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