Is there life after “Zorro”? Surely there must be, but Catherine Zeta-Jones hasn’t managed to find it since clashing swords with Antonio Banderas in two tongue-and-cheek action films. “No Reservations” (2007) saw her playing off Aaron Eckhart in a romantic kitchen comedy that never cooked, and “Death Defying Acts” (2007), a romantic-drama-thriller with Guy Pearce, didn’t catch fire.
After a three-year hiatus, Zeta-Jones teamed with Justin Bartha in “The Rebound,” and watching it left me wishing Martin Campbell would get to work on a third swashbuckler. Fast.
The premise behind “The Rebound” isn’t far-fetched. Anyone who’s still in the dating pool will tell you that people are drowning out there. With no decent available men, what’s not to believe about a recently separated 40-year-old woman finding that she “clicks” better with her 25-year-old babysitter and prefers his company? Mary Tyler Moore married her much-younger doctor, and that sort of thing happens to ordinary people as well. Unlike the chemistry-less pairing of Zeta Jones and Eckhart, at least you believe that the actress and Bartha are fond of each other.
The problem with “The Rebound” is the screenplay from writer-director Bart Freundlich (“Trust the Man”). It’s formulaic, it tries too hard to inject offbeat characters and situations that are just creepy, it’s illogical, and it’s inconsistent. Consider, too, Zeta-Jones’ character, Sandy. If you’re recently separated from your husband (after seeing footage of him having sex with a mutual friend in the kitchen while a kids’ birthday party is going on in the other room) and you have no job or income, would you really move from the burbs to New York City, one of the most expensive places in America? And if you have “no fucking money” as Sandy proclaims, would you be going out all the time and paying a babysitter (with what?), just because a friend (Kate Jennings Grant) tells you that you need to get laid?
Sandy seems like more of a character construct than a believable person. On the one hand she’s been a caring, stay-at-home mother, yet at times she swears like a longshoreman around her six-year-old son (Andrew Cherry) and eight-year-old daughter (Kelly Gould), and she seems to have no problem with her children picking up the bad habit. She misses getting them off to school one day because she’s passed-out drunk and naked in her bedroom (tastefully covered, of course). But that’s the sort of inconsistency that sends mixed messages to the audience. While one scene introduces her as a fantasy basketball player and we’re supposed to believe she’s a sports nut, there’s nothing about her for most of the movie that would indicate a love of sports, except for a thrown-in boxing scene where she cheers and jeers. And I have yet to run across a single mom, newly divorced or otherwise, who would say something like “I thought maybe there would be some meaning to this life” and conclude “Life’s a big joke.” Even Aram can see that the kids add meaning.
But the kids themselves are like overly precocious TV sitcom kids, too cute and more perceptive than their mother. But they’re dropped into Cable TV situations that would make most parents squirm, if the writing doesn’t (“Was Aram peeing in you?”). As for Bartha’s character, Aram comes with baggage of his own: Jewish parents who, of course, disapprove of their live-in son getting involved with a much older Gentile woman. And Aram’s coffee-shop co-worker (Rob Kerkovich) seems like someone he’d never become friends with, much less confide in or involve in his dating life. This annoying and clichéd character stands out as an attempt to inject a little quirkiness into the film—the same as a long and tedious scene in which Aram works a second job at the women’s center by donning an inflatable suit that makes him look like a lottery ball and serving as the tackling dummy for a women’s self-defense class.
For a romantic comedy, there’s also a lot of gross-out humor (“Frank just took a two-foot long poop—we measured”), and when you add that to all of the illogical things, it only adds to the confusion.
That’s not to say that the film is a complete bust. Zeta-Jones and Bartha do their best with the roles and lines they were handed, and there are thankfully four or five funny moments, as when Sandy thinks she might be pregnant and, while at work, cups both breasts in her hands to see if they’ve grown bigger. A guy walks past in the background and says “All right!,” to which Sandy replies, “It helps me think.” In a restaurant scene, when Sandy’s older friends start making fun of Aram’s age and clearly think less of him because he’s not “worldly,” he gets them back by asking if he can borrow one of their glasses so he can order from the menu. “No, wait,” he says, “I don’t need reading glasses. I’m only 25.”
Then there are other lines. When Aram applies for a second job at the women’s center, in the job interview he’s asked questions that are illegal for a potential employer to ask, and the interview seems to be going nowhere until he says, in response to a question about whether he has any qualifications whatsoever for the job, “I used to buy tampons for my mother.” Really? Most feminists would take offense, but the interviewer says, “You will fit in beautifully.”
But the most preposterous sequence involves “Dukes of Hazzard” alum John Schneider as a lecherous chiropractor who dates Sandy and keeps inserting his fingers in her mouth—after he’s gone to the bathroom—and when they’re walking on the street has to go inside a PortaPotty and . . . well, you don’t want to know. Let’s just say it doesn’t add to the movie, it subtracts. Other scenes have the same effect.
“The Rebound” is rated R for language, some sexual content (only implied nudity), and brief drug use.
One saving grace is how good “The Rebound” looks in 1080p. The AVC/MPEG-4 transfer to a 50-gig Blu-ray disc really does the job, with natural skin tones and incredible detail in every scene. There’s practically no grain in this film, and the colors are nicely saturated while black levels are strong. Detail holds, even in low-lit exterior scenes.
The audio is also nice, with an English DTS-HD MA 5.1 delivering clear and nicely prioritized dialogue, with enough ambient sounds channeling through the effects speakers to make the experience pleasant, if not immersive. Sounds never stray too far from the source for that to happen, but it’s a nice audio presentation with the kind of clarity we’ve come to expect from Blu-rays. Subtitles are in English SDH and Spanish.
Zeta Jones, Bartha, Freundlich, and others basically deliver a promo piece in separate cast and crew interviews that run just under 25 minutes. Yeah, well, I’m not buying it.
Poor writing and inconsistencies sink this film. Let’s hope that Zeta-Jones and Bartha can rebound.