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Jaffa views the Israeli/Palestinian conflict through the lens of young love. —Matt Anderson (DVD review...)

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The Bounty Hunter can’t bag the laughs.

The Pitch

The car is smokin' but the chemistry ain't
The car is smokin’ but the chemistry ain’t

It must’ve been a brain child conceived in Hollywood development Heaven.

Nicole Hurley (Jennifer Aniston, Office Space) is a smokin’ hot reporter for New York’s Daily News. She’s too busy investigating a suicide from a couple weeks back to take care of her own legal business, namely show up in court after a little fender bender involving her car and a police horse.

Layin’ down the law, a warrant is issued following Nicole’s failure to appear.

Enter the rough-and-tumble ex-cop-turned-bounty hunter Milo Brody (Gerard Butler, The Phantom of the Opera). He’ll pocket $5,000 for hauling her butt into jail.

Turns out this is Milo’s dream assignment. Why? Because Nicole’s his ex-wife!

Yowza! It can’t miss!

The Problems

At least the premise holds some degree of promise. Maybe a Looney Tunes for adults as Nicole constantly thwarts Milo’s attempts to capture her.

Well, that’ll have to be another movie. It’s not The Bounty Hunter.

The chase is short, a non-event really. At one point, stashed in the trunk of Milo’s hoopty, Nicole lights a safety flare, smoking up the car and forcing Milo over to the side of the road. It’s fun to watch Butler’s stunt double tackle Aniston’s stunt double after she attempts to run for it, but there’s not much else fun about this movie.

There’s no edge to the romance and the chemistry between Aniston and Butler is borderline catatonic. That’s surprising in light of reports the two had all sorts of chemistry together off the set.

Director Andy Tennant, who proved there’s virtually no difference between a hopeless romantic and a psycho stalker in the ever-so-slightly funnier Hitch, plays it all safe and goes strictly by the book, following the ol’ tried-and-true formula: Former flames fight, former flames fall back in love, former flames blow the cover off a tattoo parlor serving as the front for an underhanded police ring.

As the not-so-dynamic duo gallivant around the greater-metropolitan New York/New Jersey area, their unlikely escapades involve hot spots like the race track, Atlantic City, and a country club, all places ripe for unintentionally unlikable characters exhibiting all manner of improbable behaviors.

The Undoing

As Milo and Nicole reconnect while on the lam and attempt to get to the bottom of Nicole’s caper, there’s a cringe-worthy epiphany, one of those skin-crawling, creepy revelations that alerts viewers the movie has flushed all ambitions of respectability down the toilet: The Bounty Hunter has ventured into classic Kate Hudson-Matthew McConaughey territory.

It just so happens the bed and breakfast where they spent their honeymoon a few years back is in spitting distance of all the shenanigans. The owners recall the couple fondly, as a prime example of true love.

And that’s when the cringing begins its full-frontal assault.

But, on the bright side, the bed and breakfast scenes afford Carol Kane ( Annie Hall) another nice little role and she’s still looking great after all these years.

On the downside — and there’s much, much more down than up — a plea needs to be made to Hollywood: Stop the dinner scenes. Stop having characters discuss things while eating. No more yackin’ while smackin’. Put it at the top of the list of things deserving an “R” rating, like smoking pot and potty mouths.

Gerard Butler. Sure. He’s a handsome man, if you’re into that sort of thing. But it’s not attractive watching him eat. And he eats while talking in several scenes in this movie, leading up to a bedroom smackfest intentionally designed to grate on Nicole, but the audience suffers as well.