With films like “Leap Year,” “Valentine’s Day” and “When in Rome” already stinking up multiplexes, the bar has been set pretty low this year for romantic comedies.

But that trio has been trumped by the latest entry into the genre, “The Bounty Hunter,” a lifeless and humorless endeavor that manages to suck all the life out of anyone unfortunate enough to watch this dreck. Here’s a comedy that manages to deliver not even one chuckle and is full of unlikable characters put in uncomfortable situations.

Gerard Butler, who continues his string of horrible movies, stars as Milo - a former cop who is now a bounty hunter. His latest assignment is his ex-wife Nicole (Jennifer Aniston), a reporter who jumps bail while working on a story about a murder cover-up.

Milo sees this as a chance to stick it to Nicole, but the revenge job quickly turns into something else when the duo find themselves on the run for their lives.

Since this is a romantic comedy, these characters start out bickering, but eventually realize they belong together. There is only one problem with the obvious scenario: They actually don’t belong together. These are two miserable and selfish characters who have so many flaws, it’s hard for the audience to root for them.

It also doesn’t help that Butler and Aniston lack any sort of chemistry, which could have made the forced reunion seem a little more palpable.

If the lead characters were the only unlikable ones, “The Bounty Hunter” could have at least achieved mediocre status. Unfortunately, the cast is full of sleaze - with embarrassing work by Jason Sudeikis, Jeff Garland and Cathy Moriarty. The only person who manages to overcome the poor material is Christine Baranski, playing Aniston’s mother - an aging Atlantic City lounge singer who looks more like a drag queen than an older diva. Her look is so awkward, yet fascinating, that it made me wish she would have had her own film.

But that is about the only faint praise I can give for this dreadful experience. It may be late March, but I think it is safe to say that “The Bounty Hunter” firmly establishes itself as the movie to beat for title of “worst film of 2010.”

DVD dandy of the week

This week’s dandy is “The Fantastic Mr. Fox” (B+), the animated adaptation of the Roald Dahl children’s novel directed by Wes Anderson (the man behind “Rushmore”) that is as odd - and as clever - as any other major 2009 release.

Anderson uses a star-studded cast to tell the story of Mr. Fox (George Clooney), a carefree creature who promises Mrs. Fox (Meryl Streep) that he’ll give up the life of chasing poultry when he learns they are about to have a little fox.

Flash forward to a couple of years later and Mr. Fox is itching to go back to his wild ways - concocting one final score that winds up landing him and the rest of the animals in the forest in trouble with the three nastiest farmers around.

“Fox” is a pretty simple tale, but in the hands of Anderson, is full of sharp wit and laughs. Clooney and Streep bring star power and a coolness factor that youngsters may not appreciate, but their parents certainly will. There are also some clever supporting roles voiced by Jason Schwartzman, Bill Murray, Michael Gambon and Willem Dafoe.

I’m not sure how many kids will get a lot of the film’s sharp dialogue, but I think the simple story and animation (which owes a lot to “Wallace and Gromit”) will be enough to satisfy them.

As for the adults, anyone looking for humor - and fans of Anderson - will almost certainly be pleased.

Here’s a kids’ film that adults won’t be afraid to see alone.

“The Fantastic Mr. Fox” is rated PG for action, smoking and slang humor and is now available on DVD.

— To get sportswriter/movie reviewer Micheal Compton’s up-to-the minute thoughts on all things movies, visit his blog at mcompton.wordpress.com or his Twitter page at twitter.com/mcompton428. You can also e-mail him at mcompton@bgdailynews.com.

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