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"BOUNCE"
(2000) (Ben Affleck, Gwyneth Paltrow) (PG-13)

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QUICK TAKE:
Drama: Having switched plane tickets at the last minute with another man only to have that plane involved in a fatal crash, a guilt-ridden advertising executive goes to check on the dead man's wife and family and then finds himself falling for her.
PLOT:
Buddy Amaral (BEN AFFLECK) is an advertising executive who's trying to get back to Los Angeles from Chicago but finds himself delayed due to bad weather. In the interim, he meets and briefly gets to know several other stranded passengers, including Mimi Praeger (NATASHA HENSTRIDGE), a Dallas businesswoman, and Greg Janello (TONY GOLDWYN), a TV writer.

Flying on free tickets from his airline client, Buddy decides to give his seat to Greg not only so that man can get home to his family for the holidays, but also so that Buddy can have a one-night fling with Mimi. The next morning Buddy awakens to horrible news - the plane he was supposed to board and on which Greg took his place crashed during the night, killing hundreds of people including Greg.

Across the country, Greg's wife, Abby (GWYNETH PALTROW), gets a call from her distraught mother about Greg being on the plane. Certain that he was supposed to be on a flight the next morning, Abby is grief stricken when she receives the fateful confirmation, and there's only so much her friend, Donna (CAROLINE AARON), can do to console her.

Equally upset and struck with both shock and guilt, Buddy begins drinking heavily, eventually spending time in a drug and alcohol rehab center for his alcoholism. Months later and now sober, Buddy tries to get back to work with his business partner and boss, Jim Weller (JOE MORTON), as well as his new assistant, Seth (JOHNNY GALECKI), a gay, recovering alcoholic.

Despite his progress, Buddy still feels guilty about what happened, and thus sets out to find Greg's widow, now a novice realtor, and see how she and her two young sons, Scott (ALEX D. LINZ) and Joey (DAVID DORFMAN), are faring. Without telling her of his unique connection to her late husband, Buddy does what he can to help out Abby, and their friendship eventually turns into romance. Realizing that their relationship is deepening but still subjected to guilt whenever Abby mentions anything about Greg, Buddy tries to figure out if and when he should tell Abby the truth.

OUR TAKE: 5 out of 10
Formula (noun): A method of doing or treating something that relies on an established, uncontroversial model approach. A prescription of ingredients in fixed proportion; a recipe.

Hollywood loves the formula, and it's present in nearly every stage of moviemaking. Screenwriters pitching their wares know that if their story is formulaic, at least to some degree, it will probably more likely be bought, while the actual pitching, negotiating and selling of the script follows its own formula.

Once that's completed, the studio assembles the talent (in front of and behind the camera) as ingredients of their project's formula, and once the film is completed, most studios follow the same manner of marketing and advertising the film.

It's enough to make one think that those in the film business are frustrated chemists, but thankfully, not all films fall into the mold, especially if they're of the independent variety. On the other hand, a great many romantic comedies and dramas do adhere to the tried and true formula of having a couple meet and then become friends and then lovers. Of course, that's before something happens that splits them up until they eventually get back together again before the end credits roll, the curtain closes and there's a mad rush for the restroom.

Since such movies are so formulaic, there are really only two things that keep viewers in their seats. One is whether the chemistry between the two characters is credible and enjoyable to watch. The other is trying to figure out what the late-in-the-game breakup catalyst will be and/or when it will rear its ugly head.

In Don Roos' "Bounce," the first element is a no-brainer (since stars Ben Affleck and Gwyneth Paltrow are on again, off again lovers in real life), while the second is only partially effective and/or satisfying since we know what it is from the get-go and thus only wait to see when the hammer will fall, so to speak.

Thematically similar to Sydney Pollack's 1999 romantic dud, "Random Hearts" in that a man and woman are brought together by the death of a significant other via a plane crash, the film is generally well-acted and written. Unfortunately, it never strays far from the underlying formula and, as a result, isn't terribly engaging or compelling to watch.

Of course, if you're into the whole "Are they dating again or not" mentality that fuels and feeds tabloids and pop entertainment magazines, TV shows and websites, or are of the teen dating set that hasn't been subjected to too much of the formula yet, your response may vary.

Affleck ("Reindeer Games," "Dogma") and Paltrow ("Duets," "The Talented Mr. Ripley") obviously not only make an attractive couple but also a credible one as well, and the chemistry and interaction between them feels right throughout the film. What drives the picture, however, is the question of when Buddy - who gave his airline seat to Abby's husband only to discover then that he narrowly avoided death - will inform her of his little, but rather crucial and obviously potentially upsetting secret.

Beyond that, the film has little to offer in the way of additional drama or humor, although Johnny Galecki ("The Opposite of Sex," TV's "Roseanne"), generates a few laughs as a tell it like it is business assistant. Heck, even a dud like that Harrison Ford/ Kristin Scott Thomas vehicle contained the "mystery" of the dead spouses' connection as well as a criminal subplot that were present in an attempt to stir things up a bit.

It's to the performers and Roos' credit that they manage to string us along/keep us interested as long as they do since the film simply and methodically moves from one point to the next, with little or nothing unexpectedly turning up.

They certainly don't get much help from the supporting characters that Roos (who wrote & directed "The Opposite of Sex" and wrote "Diabolique" and "Boys on the Side") has scattered throughout the story. That's not to say that the performances are bad by any means - to the contrary they're all quite solid - but that the likes of Tony Goldwyn ("The 6th Day," "Kiss the Girls"), Natasha Henstridge ("The Whole Nine Yards," "Dog Park") and Joe Morton ("The Astronaut's Wife," "Terminator 2: Judgement Day") simply aren't given the time or material to extract much from their characters.

This is clearly the Ben and Gwyneth show (or what's now reportedly being called "Benneth" in some circles) and a little more attention paid to the supporting characters probably would have helped out. Alex D. Linz ("Home Alone 3," "One Fine Day") and David Dorfman (making his feature debut) do get a bit more screen time as Abby's kids and they're mostly credible as such, but they're otherwise mostly unremarkable and certainly less than memorable.

That pretty much sums up the film. While the acting and writing are good and the film hits the right emotional notes early on, after that it simply isn't that compelling or interesting. Those who are big fans of Benneth and their real-life romance might disagree, but for everyone else, "Bounce" doesn't have enough of its titular quality to make it jump off the screen. As it stands, the film rates as a rather staid 5 out of 10.




Reviewed November 15, 2000 / Posted November 17, 2000


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