The Rebound (2009) / Comedy-Romance

MPAA Rated: R for sexual content, language and brief drug use
Running time: 95

Cast: Catherine Zeta-Jones, Justin Bartha, Lynn Whitfield, Kate Jennings Grant, Jake Cherry, Kelly Gould, Joanna Gleason, Art Garfunkel, John Schneider
Director: Bart Freundlich

Screenplay: Bart Freundlich
Review published December 26, 2009

Catherine Zeta-Jones (No Reservations, The Legend of Zorro) stars as Sandy, a 40-year-old suburban housewife and mother of two precocious children who finds herself having to start over again in New York City when she finds evidence of her husband's affair.  With her world turned upside down, she soon gets her footing starting up a new career, but at the cost of the time she would normally spend with her children.  She hires a babysitter, an aimless but likeable 25-year-old named Aram Finklestein (Bartha, National Treasure: Book of Secrets), to whom the high-maintenance kids take an instant liking to, and Sandy soon does as well.  With Aram seeming to enjoy spending as much time as possible with the children, she hires him as her full-time nanny, leaving Sandy finds the time to date again, only to find that the men aren't measuring up to her high standards.  Sandy and Aram get on the fast track from friends to more, but is it a real thing or just a rebound fling?

The Rebound is aptly named, as it plays like a tacky and tasteless family film (though, oddly, R rated) for the first two thirds before finding the right kind of footing as the terrible humor dissipates.  By tacky and tasteless, I mean that the film aims pretty low in its comedy.  Within the first half hour, we're already treated to scenes involving a young boy urinating with a homeless man (the homeless are treated as all crazies and perverts in this film), Sandy's date violently defecating in a port-a-potty and constantly touching her food and mouth with his (possibly) soiled hands, one character vomits on another, the young children are flashed by a New York weirdo (who is obviously wearing pants in the scene, but one of the kids mentions seeing the man's penis in the next scene?), and one of the children catches his mother having sex (then asks if the man is peeing on his mother).  Boring Big Daddy-ish stuff that arrives in theaters a decade too late is what Freundlich finds amusing, wrapped in a cloying sitcom-perky package.

Perhaps if writer-director Freundlich, whose Trust the Man was similarly marred by an overabundance of crass humor, knew that his handling of romantic drama is a firmer hold than his attempts at cutesy comedy, we might be talking about one of the year's more pleasant surprises rather than one of its frustrations.  The leads, particularly Bartha, do handle their roles well enough, but most of the better scenes come when Freundlich isn't polluting the story with sex and potty humor.  When the characters finally talk to one another, things settle down, and we see the difficulties of an immature young man trying to enter into a romance with an older, more successful mother of two.  He's responsive to her needs and good to her and the children, but what can she possibly hope to get out of it but sex and companionship, and another person to have to take care of financially and emotionally?

Cougar comedies abound these days, and the possibilities of this romantic angle could indeed make for an interesting movie (it was Prime's hook), but The Rebound is like the character of Aram himself, wanting to make the step into the real adult themes than it has the maturity level to tackle.

 Qwipster's rating:

©2009 Vince Leo