Up and Down

If the concept of that dubious celebrity Ben Affleck romping in a water park with cinematic darling Gwyneth Paltrow and two adorable moppets does not inspire in you spasms of dizziness and nausea, then you may find plenty to tolerate in this new romantic dramedy Bounce, from writer/director Don Roos (The Opposite of Sex). As these well-to-do superstars try their darnedest (and fail) to prove they're regular folk, Roos approaches his sophomore slump like a man with a mission -- mainly, to prove that his heart pumps more than amusing, black gunk.

The problem is that he allows his keen wit to be corrupted by a rather forced sense of sincerity. Affleck plays a hotshot advertising executive who settles into a Chicago airport bar to devour a zestful agent (Natasha Henstridge) and swap tickets with a floundering playwright (Tony Goldwyn). After some nasty business involving Affleck in bed and a massive fireball slamming into Kansas, the repercussions of his libidinous choice begin to hit, bringing the burden of wrenching guilt (which closely resembles smirking), professional cynicism, and imprisonment in a Palm Springs detox center. Upon emerging he instantly falls in love with the playwright's brittle widow (Paltrow), causing a major conflict: He knows who she is, but she thinks he's simply a benevolent, wealthy stranger. Oh well, as the classic rock tune goes, if you can't be with the one you love, love the one who's duping you big-time. It's pretty clear why the leads were attracted to the project -- he gets to play a selfish prick learning to open his heart; she gets to cry and shake -- but they're both miles away from convincing. As far as jet-crash romances go, Bounce surpasses the slow ride to nowhere of Random Hearts, but, by playing the love as a given, the movie could hardly be called Fearless.


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