‘Bounty Hunter’: Contrived comedy falls flat

  • By Robert Horton Herald Movie Critic
  • Thursday, March 18, 2010 12:28pm
  • LifeGo-See-Do

Examine closely the clothes worn by Jennifer Aniston and Gerard Butler in the poster for “The Bounty Hunter.” She’s in a black skirt and tastefully plunging top, he’s in a checked short-sleeved shirt.

You will have a lot of time to ponder these sartorial decisions, because except for a brief interlude to dry off after a dunking, these are the clothes the stars will wear for the entire film.

The fact that I call attention to this, or even noticed it in the first place, is a measure of how far one’s mind can wander during this sluggish comedy.

Aniston and Butler play ex-marrieds who can’t stand each other. She’s a reporter, he’s a former cop turned bounty hunter.

By the grace of screenwriter Sarah Thorp, Aniston’s character has actually jumped bail for a minor traffic transgression, and thus is fair game for Butler’s reward-seeking skip tracer.

You can see the plot heaving into view, but there’s more. Not only is Butler chasing Aniston from New York to Atlantic City and back, they’re both being chased by somebody else.

It’s possible to see what the goal is here: a romantic comedy featuring two attractive stars, but with a little grit to it. The “grit” part means there’s as much violence and saucy language (and one extended trip to a strip club) as possible and still come under the PG-13 wire.

But why? Who is that edgy PG-13-bordering-on-R movie for?

Maybe at some point in the script’s life, Aniston imagined it would be a quirky little dark romance with a bit of Pedro Almodovar flavor to it.

But the quirk went out of it, and so did the dark. And what’s left is Jennifer Aniston and Gerard Butler trying to work up some energy under impossible circumstances.

Butler, a roguish and rough guy in action movies, keeps trying to make it happen in comedies, such as “The Ugly Truth,” but nothing’s sticking.

Aniston can still deliver a line, but she has a defeated air here, as though she thought she were making that Almodovar script and realized she got stuck with “The Bounty Hunter” instead. You will feel her pain.

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