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The Big Bounce

movie review out of 4 Movie Review: The Big Bounce

Starring: Owen Wilson, Morgan Freeman
Director: George Armitage
Rated: PG-13
RunTime: 108 Minutes
Release Date: January 2004
Genres: Comedy, Suspense, Thriller

*Also starring: Butch Helemano, Vinnie Jones, Terry Ahue, Brian L. Keaulana, Gary Sinise, Sara Foster, Andrew Wilson, Willie Nelson, Charlie Sheen

Review by Harvey Karten
1 star out of 4

Scam fans will recognize the name of Elmore Leonard, whose "Get Shorty," adapted for the screen by Scott Frank under Barry Sonnenfeld's direction, is a clever black comedy about a small- time Miami enforcer coming to L.A. on business and hooking up with a bottom-feeding producer. Sonnenfeld, who evoked top- notch performances from John Travolta and Gene Hackman, turned out a film with not only an ingenious plot but which enjoyed clever digs at the Hollywood machine. "The Big Bounce," adapted by Sebastian Gutierrez from Mr. Leonard's novel of the same name, is the opposite. If you're looking for a sendup, you'll get none of that here: in fact the North Shore of Hawaii's Oahu Island is captured beautifully by Jeffrey L. Kimball, the photography being the best part of this quirky- turkey project. The use to which one of Nature's marvels the world's surfing capital which brings Olympic-quality athletes to its shores each winter could conceivably make the audience, trapped for just a mercifully short eighty-five minutes, envision bumper stickers for their cars: "I'd rather be surfing."

From the looks of the performers who are slumming on auto- pilot, they'd probably want to stretch director Armitage's "take- five"'s into an hour or so amid the big waves, particularly if joined by the Kate-Bosworth-like beauty, newcomer Sara Foster as a local babe who's turned on more by the excitement of criminal pursuits than by its rewards.

The story, which turns on the usual caper-comedy formula involving double- and triple-crosses, becomes increasingly confusing not because there's anything resembling a clever script, but because one cannot be blamed for nodding off here and there after partaking of its limp dialogue, its who-give-a-rat story, and the waste of comic heavies like Owen Wilson and Morgan Freeman.

Owen Wilson is the centerpiece as Jack Ryan, a drifter in trouble now and then with the law for breaking-and-entering but one who is not so hungry for money that he puts real passion into his profession. Working construction for the ignoble Ray Ritchie (Gary Sinise) whose development of a resort is protested by local Hawaiians and whose greed is opposed even by petty criinal Jack--Ryan gets into a fight with the foreman, Lou Harris (Vinnie Jones) while the bumbling Bob Jr. (Charlie Sheen) urges Jack to leave the island before Ritchie gets his mobsters after him. Jack, however, falls in love with the Bob Jr.'s comely mistress, Nancy Hayes (Sara Foster) after taking a job as handyman for local judge Walter Crewes (Morgan Freeman). As Nancy and Jack plot the biggest heist of their careers, the creaky plot lurches forward, one so banal that not even Bebe Neuwirth can do much for it.

After a while, the audience can't be blamed for becoming frustrated with Nancy's perpetual tease, particularly in the way she makes promises of carnal pleasure to Bob Jr. while using her wiles to manipulate Jack to break into a home to rob a safe of $200,000. George Armitage's sluggish direction from the very beginning of the story involving a half-baked demonstration by a handful of locals protesting the development and culminating in the inevitable betrayals does not help. Owen Wilson, a natural comic who can make you start grinning from his mere appearance (as he did best in "Meet the Parents"), looks as embarrassed as the people in the theater audience while Sara Foster, allegedly hired for the movie after an audition of one hundred women, is as generic as they come.

Copyright 2004 Harvey Karten

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