I've never understood why everyone used to pick on Ben Affleck so much as an actor … until now. He is downright awful in 'Bounce,' but Gwyneth Paltrow (who I usually like) is just as bad. I blame the director and the screenplay.
'Bounce' opens with our central character Buddy (Affleck) closing a major marketing deal with a Chicago-based airline prior to hopping on a flight to his sunny southern California beach-front home. Buddy comes across as an obnoxious prick. His nose is in the air as he gallivants through the bustling airport awaiting his delayed flight. Storms have left many flights delayed or postponed, so the bars are packed. There he meets Mimi (Natasha Henstridge), a gorgeous businesswoman with whom he incessantly flirts, and Greg (Tony Goldwyn), a nice and honest guy trying to get home to his family. Greg and Buddy are supposed to be on the same flight, but Greg is bumped back another day. Buddy's character is made to look like a nice guy when he gives Greg his airline ticket, but it really only paints him as a slimeball because he does it just so he can spend the night with Mimi in the closest hotel.
When Buddy and Mimi turn on the television early the next morning, they see the big news story that's found on every channel – the flight that Buddy was supposed to be on crashed somewhere in the mid-west and there are no survivors. Buddy immediately realizes that his desire to sleep with Mimi saved his own pathetic life, but took the life of an innocent man who was simply trying to get home to his family. After this, buddy has a breakdown that takes him down a dark alcohol-filled road of addiction. He hits rock bottom and enters rehab, but he still carries the grave weight. Wanting to make things right, he pushes his way into the life of Greg's widowed wife, Abby (Paltrow), and of course falls for her before he has the chance to tell her that he gave her husband that doomed ticket.
The jumbled screenplay is filled with several sets of heavy content that deserve to have their own movies – not share the screen with one another. The alcoholism pops up here and there. The grief of loss frequents. Ethics (and the lack thereof) are also a major player. Religion and faith are mentioned quite a bit. But none of these themes is given enough time on screen to allow any one of them to carry an emotional impact. They're all glossed over, feeling like reoccurring episodes of should-be emotional struggle.
If writer/director Don Roos could create this jumbled story and bad script, I imagine that he's also fully capable of ruining performances. If he can't articulate his thoughts on page, then why would he be able to articulate the performance that he wants his actors to give on screen? In listening to the commentary and watching the making-of featurettes, he constantly talks about things that the audience is meant to pick up on, but not one of those elements translated that way to me as I watched 'Bounce.'
The only thing that works in 'Bounce' is the relationship between Buddy and Abby. Having a romantic history, I credit the Affleck/Paltrow chemistry to their relationship in the real world. If you want to hear how well these two play off one another, watch the special feature 'Selected Scenes with Audio Commentary.'
'Bounce' isn't terrible, but it's far from great. It lies within that forgettable middle ground. The idea behind it isn't bad, but the way that conflict is brought about is predictable and unremarkable. Of course Abby is going to find out about Buddy giving up his ticket to her husband, but that shouldn't be the pre-climax rising action. And don't even get me started on the climax. I can't write a creative story to save my life, but if someone had a gun to my head and told me to write a romance film, it would be just as predictable, clichéd, and jumbled as 'Bounce.'
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Lionsgate has place this 12-year-old Miramax title on a Region A BD-25 in a blue Eco Elite keepcase. A lot of content runs before the main menu (a Lionsgate vanity reel, a Miramax vanity reel, a commentary disclaimer and trailers for 'Shakespeare in Love,' 'Serendipity,' 'Good Will Hunting,' 'The Switch' and HDNet), but you can glide right over all of it.
'Bounce' arrives on Blu-ray with a mild 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode that's presented in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio.
The print used for the transfer is about 99 percent clean, the other one percent contains the tiniest of white specks. Images are mostly sharp and detailed, but some shots inconsistently drop in detail. A decent amount of grain covers the film and there's a hazy look that washes away non-vibrant colors. Unless a color is boldly saturated – like the blues seen in the Dodgers logos – then they're washed out. Blacks are typically deep, but also inconsistently jump between overpowering to gray.
At the 97-minute-mark there's an odd jitter in the transfer that causes the film to shimmy from side-to-side. This is the only instance of this type of flaw.
Compression flaws arise from time to time. Banding can seen as the opening Miramax vanity reel fades to blacks and a couple other times throughout the movie. Aliasing also flickers in straightened hairs and on some fine lines. Artifacts are absent, as is digital noise – but that is most likely due to the occasional use of DNR. Edge enhancement can also be seen in a few scenes.
The lossless 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track of 'Bounce' is much better that I assumed it would be. The movie opens with soaring shots from above the clouds sets to scoring. All of the music in the film is strongly mixed throughout all channels. When we break away from that shot, we see Chicago from a few thousand feet in the sky. An airplane suddenly cuts into the frame and we get great imaging sounds of it banking through the theater. The effects are also strongly mixed and utilize the rear and surround channels just as much as the front.
So, what is it that knocks the rating down to 3.5 stars? The vocals. All dialog stems solely from the center speaker, giving the vocals of 'Bounce' a very flat feel. There aren't any issues with the volume of the dialog causing it to be trumped by the great music and effects mixes, the flat dialog simply removes a dynamic element – and it's noticeable.
I'm no sucker for romantic films, but I sure don't mind one if it has both creative substance and decent filmmaking. What keeps me from loving 'Bounce' is its generic and predictable story and its lack of focus. 'Bounce' feels like it's trying to preach not only one moral, but half a dozen mini-morals. At the same time it's trying to be funny, cute, romantic, and emotion, but alchemy trying to make these elements harmoniously function simply does not work. A shoot and a miss. Nice attempt, but please try again. The video quality suffers from a few painful flaws, but it much better then the previous DVD release. The audio quality would be exceptional had the vocals not been left flat. Special features are abundant, although they become repetitious. 'Bounce' isn't the worst catalog title out there, but it's far from being one of the best.