|The Bounty Hunter
Starring Jennifer Aniston and Gerard Butler
It's a familiar story, really. Romantic comedies rely on one thing and one thing only: Chemistry. More than any other genre or type of film, if you have great chemistry between two leads, a romantic comedy can rise to great heights. Without it, no matter how good or original the script might be, the movie will just never take off. So why is it that so few romantic comedies - a genre that reaches wider by the year - actually tap into good chemistry? More than anything, it comes down to the fact that you just can't force chemistry. It is or it isn't. Now, there's more to it than that. Most romcom scripts aren't that good, anyway. Hard to keep things fresh and surprising when every third act includes some character running through an airport to stop that all-important flight. But even that matters less if you accept the actors as the characters going through all the relationship headaches. You either do or you don't. That brings us to The Bounty Hunter, starring Jennifer Aniston and Gerard Butler. She is notorious for not finding that on-screen chemistry, and he made a romantic comedy with Katherine Heigl, so there's no way that's happened for him, either. That's not to say neither Aniston nor Butler can't someday stumble onto the secret formula, just that they haven't to this point. Burt and Sally, Woody and Diane, or Powell and Loy if you're from an older generation all had it, and if you want step beyond the realm of romantic comedies, Redford and Newman, Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones, and Hopkins and Foster all displayed it, too. Shifting the story in this film just a tad, you could even find huge chemistry between two of the least charismatic actors alive, Robert De Niro and Charles Grodin in Midnight Run. And who knows how it happened there. In The Bounty Hunter, Butler is supposed to bring Aniston, his ex-wife, back to prison. It's hard to say whether his $5,000 fee or the satisfaction of locking up his ex- is the bigger temptation. Because that setup isn't enough, apparently, The Bounty Hunter veers into some very silly territory so that, as they're taught in screenwriting classes, every scene has conflict. And that's where the chemistry comes in: If Aniston and Butler had it, genuinely belonged on the same screen together as magnet and steel, then The Bounty Hunter could have overcome some of that unnecessary meandering. It would be a joy just to watch them. But they don't, so it isn't.