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Bounce fails to take off

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Bounce (PG-13)
Miramax

Culture quiz: Name at least one film/book/fable based on the following plot summary: Man and woman meet because one has a secret relating to the other and has sought that other out. Man and woman fall in love. Secret-holder should tell the newly beloved the secret, but can't bear to out him/herself. Newly beloved finds out before beloved tells secret, gets mad and leaves relationship. Secret-holder is bereft. The ending is, however, predictably happy.

If you attend the movies with any regularity, you can probably come up with at least two recent examples. Award yourself three extra bonus points for each work of the same nature in 17th-, 18th- or 19th-century European literature/opera/drama.

So why do you suppose a smart writer/director like Dan Roos (The Opposite of Sex, Boys on the Side) would rehash this well-worn plot? I suppose if he had something new to say on the theme, it might make sense. Unfortunately, Bounce doesn't fit the bill.

Perhaps Roos couldn't resist casting Ben Affleck as a callous advertising executive who casually gives his boarding pass to a young writer, then is stricken with guilt when the plane crashes killing all aboard. After all, Affleck has one of the best bodies in the business, and perhaps Roos wanted a shot of the god of abs. Unfortunately, there is nary a good washboard closeup in the film, and more's the pity.

Likewise, perhaps Roos was smitten by the vulnerability of Gwyneth Paltrow, the grieving widow of the downed writer who, a year after the crash, is trying to make it as a real-estate broker when Affleck seeks her out to make amends as part of his 12-step AA program. That might be a good enough reason to make a mediocre movie -- just to spend a little time near Miss Gwyneth's teary face, and see her try to make Mr. Affleck a little more responsive.

Good luck.

But, all this is mere speculation. What we have before us is a perfectly passable movie with no spring in its step. The characters are flat, the relationships predictable, and while it covers all the plot bases, it plumbs no new depths. In classic Hollywood fashion, the emotional relationships lack any spirit: You're married to someone, they die, you move on. You're a drunk, you recover, you move on. You have children, they hurt, you comfort them a little bit, all is better. You meet someone, they're pretty, they wear Armani, you fall in love. You feel conflict, you talk it out, you move on.

Ultimately, of course, you make adequate little movies filled with pretty, famous faces, and, after all is said and done, you add it to your rsum and wait for the next rehash to come along. If bland is your taste, Bounce is your answer. Otherwise, I recommend moving on.

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