I believe much of the movie-going nation got a little tired of having former “It” couple Ben Affleck and Gwyneth Paltrow shoved down their throats. Apparently, they even got sick of themselves together and split up well before the production of “Bounce.” God knows why they felt compelled to make this feature together. They are both talented, as is writer/director Don Roos (“The Opposite of Sex”). Hopefully, the three of them got something out of this because I’m not so sure whom else this movie is actually for.
In the old days, TV shows like “Gilligan’s Island” and “Green Acres” would tell you everything you conceivably needed to know about those programs in their theme songs. Today, movie trailers have the nasty tendency of revealing nearly every shred of plot, whether you wanted to know or not. If you’ve watched the ads for “Bounce,” you have probably already deduced that it’s about Buddy Amaral (Affleck), a hot-shot advertising executive. When bad weather begins to shut down the Chicago O’Hare airport, he gives his ticket to Greg (Tony Goldwyn), whom he just met in the airport bar. This way, Greg can fly home to his family and Buddy can stay and sleep with Mimi (Natasha Henstridge), whom he also just met.
Of course, the plane crashes, and Buddy is wracked with guilt over inadvertently causing a nice husband and father to die in the place of his selfish a*s.
After six months of trying to drink his guilt away and a stint in rehab, Buddy works up the courage to see if Greg’s widow Abby (Paltrow) and two kids are okay. After secretly helping her out, the two unexpectedly hit it off and fall in love. But wouldn’t you know it? He forgot to tell her that he was the one who switched seats with her dead husband. He really wants to tell her, you know, because IT’S THE RIGHT THING TO DO, but the longer he takes, the greater the chance she’ll find out from somewhere else. Very little hilarity and a whole lot of crying and histrionics ensue.
Sure, Affleck and Paltrow are still pretty good together. Perhaps their real-life breakup has contributed a certain awkwardness that adds to the dynamic between their onscreen characters. Still, what’s the point? “Bounce” seems too slight and shallow to really work as a drama. As the specter of death hovers over the film from ten minutes in, it’s not such a good date film, either. I don’t understand director Roos. He made his mark with tight, unpredictable scripts such as “The Opposite of Sex” and “Single White Female” but the moment Abby is introduced following the plane crash, the audience had a pretty good idea where this was all going, and they were right.
I kind of wonder if Peter Weir’s “Fearless” is to blame for the recent examples of the “crash course love story”. You know what I’m talking about. In the somber voice of the narrator: “They were two people from different worlds, until those worlds came crashing together!” Due to some catastrophe (plane, train, zeppelin, whatever, crashes) two friends, family, lovers of different victims somehow find each other to work through their grief. “Fearless” was about a strange survivor of a plane crash, but 1999’s “Random Hearts” was the most ludicrous example of this strange little sub-genre. Built into the premise is death, crying, emotional catharsis, and all kinds of other s**t that actors will eat up. The problem is that this alone is not enough to carry the movie, it’s just a place to launch the story. The audience needs to be engrossed in what happens after the crash, and very few stars have the ability to overcome a by-the-numbers approach to the following romance.
I do have a solution. It used to be, probably around five years ago, Bill Pullman would get the likable by unlucky sap role with which Tony Goldwyn had to wade through. Goldwyn, however, has excelled in a twist where, as in “Kiss the Girls” and “Ghost”, he turned out to be the psycho. Maybe his character could have survived and has a few screws loose from the trauma. He could have shown up in the last act to hunt and kill Buddy, Abby, and his kids. This time, Buddy has to kill Greg himself, and make sure he’s dead before he and the widow could ride off into the sunset. That’s some damn closure right there. Yeah, okay, it may be silly and violent, but isn’t that more entertaining than predictable and bland?