At one point in The Bounty Hunter, the character Nicole Hurley (Jennifer Aniston) and her ex-husband (Gerard Butler) have a brief, conciliatory conversation about their divorce in which she says, “We made a huge mistake.” He agrees.
They might as well have been talking about their roles in this new Andy Tennant-directed film.
Instead of a chick flick or even a hoped-for screwball comedy, The Bounty Hunter is a new chase movie that never goes anywhere you’d want to be. The story by Sarah Thorp is a mishmash of unlikeable characters chasing others who are equally unlikeable.
Nicole is a reporter who thinks she’s on to a story involving police corruption. So much so that she skips a court appearance — seems she’d been in some kind of altercation with a “cop” — in order to meet up with Jimmy the Snitch, who has some info. Alas, Jimmy is kidnapped by Earl (Peter Greene), and the judge doesn’t take kindly to Nic’s standing her up. Neither does her bail bondsman, who just happens to employ Nic’s ex, Milo Boyd (Butler).
Besides being a total slob, Milo is also in trouble with Irene the Bookie for gambling debts. Nic is tracking down Jimmy. Milo is chasing Nic. Earl is also after Nic. Irene sets her damage dudes after Milo. Registering more miles than a Greyhound bus, all this running and driving around takes place in and around New York City and parts of New Jersey including Atlantic City, which is probably considering a name change.
The result of Thorp’s script is a wannabe screwball comedy that in reality is wearing at best, with little to laugh about.
Director Tennant, who’s experienced at dealing with beautiful people — Sweet Home Alabama and Fool’s Gold — once again has been unable to elicit any chemistry between his two leads. The flirty exchanges of Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant in Bringing Up Baby and Claudette Colbert and Clark Gable in It Happened One Night made road comedies legendary. Sadly, this is not the case with The Bounty Hunter. Even John Candy and Steve Martin had more passion in Planes, Trains & Automobiles than Aniston and Butler.
Alas, this situation is getting to be a habit with Aniston, whose only recent successful connection with her lead has been with the pooch in Marley and Me. It’s too bad, because you really want the girl to revive the comedic reputation she earned in TV’s Friends.
To compensate, she’s seen jiggling and bouncing in a sausage-wrapper-tight, short black skirt and revealing Hooters-style tank top, with the help of stilt-high stilettos. Tennant evidently realizes that shooting her chest and derriere from every angle possible will distract the audience from her shortcomings. Whether she’s pedaling a bicycle cab or driving a golf cart, the camera hones in on Aniston’s most obvious strengths. Teenage boys will no doubt enjoy Aniston’s features when the flick hits cable.
On the other hand, Scottish-born Gerard suffers a lesser indignation as his wardrobe consists of a size-too-small workman’s shirt and a very low-slung towel as he emerges from a gratuitous shower scene. However, his hottie image is bound to drop a notch for even his staunchest fans due to a scene in which he wakes face down, drooling on a leather couch. Just for one brief moment, Gerard conjures up memories of John Belushi’s “Bluto” in Animal House.
And speaking of oral fixation, it’s hard to imagine a romantic comedy with two such attractive people not having at least one hot passionate kiss. Sadly, the only hot clinch in the movie is between Mr. Butler and his boss’s beauty-challenged secretary (Siobhan Fallon), which results in “wagging tongues” and a transfer of chewing gum between the two. Ewww!
Luckily, the supporting cast includes Christine Baranski as Nic’s mother, an aging chanteuse at a local casino. She’s an old pro at playing the rich, bitchy mother types that you would love to know from a distance.
Saturday Night Live‘s Jason Sudeikis is wasted in his role as a nerdy co-worker lusting after Nic. The wear and tear he suffers in his pursuit includes being kidnapped by Irene’s boys, having a leg broken via a golf club and being injected with an equine tranquilizer in his neck.
Character actors Carol Kane, as the operator of a B&B where Nic and Milo hole up, and Cathy Moriarty (Irene the Bookie) effortlessly steal every scene they’re in. It’s good to see Ms. Moriarty back on screen. While she’s added a few pounds and years, she still commands the screen as a power-packed woman with a voice like whiskey and smoke.