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The Big Bounce

  • compiled by Jeffrey Overstreet Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2004 1 Jan
The Big Bounce
from Film Forum, 02/05/04

Owen Wilson stars in the latest adaptation of an Elmore Leonard novel, The Big Bounce. But in spite of his all-star supporting cast, which includes Morgan Freeman, Gary Sinise, Sara Foster, Willie Nelson, Vinnie Jones, and Charlie Sheen, Wilson is stuck in one of this year's first sinking ships.

Wilson plays Jack Ryan (no, not that Jack Ryan), a cool criminal looking for a good bit of trouble. In Hawaii, he finds both a "job" and a romance that lead him deeper into the conviction that crime pays.

Mainstream critics are disappointed to see such a lackluster Leonard adaptation. But religious press critics feel robbed and offended.

"There's absolutely nothing big about this production and certainly no bounce," writes Phil Boatwright (Movie Reporter). "It's flat, crude and boring."

Eddie Turner (Movieguide) is not impressed with the shallow characters. "Everything they do is for sex or money. The elements that made the other Elmore Leonard adaptations successful are absent: the snappy dialogue is dumbed down, the actors are not terribly charismatic, and the story is loose and plodding."

Annabelle Robertson (Crosswalk) speculates, "Maybe this script went through too many rewrites—or maybe it wasn't good to begin with, because the characters are poorly drawn and the plot is virtually non-existent. Nothing happens during the first half of the film except a few petty crimes and Jack lusting after Nancy. When the action finally gets underway, we aren't sure who the real bad guy is."

Steven Isaac (Plugged In) says, "The cast has promise, but the script needs more than just a little work. By the time the 'big twist' comes at the end, you won't much care who makes off with the money. The point … isn't character development, plot points, social commentary or even mystery and intrigue. It's merely to make crime look cool."

David DiCerto (Catholic News Service) calls the caper "cringe-worthy." "More disconcerting than the insipid script is the film's wink-wink assertion that crime not only pays, but on occasion pays quite well. [The characters] not only literally get away with murder, but cut a very sweet profit in the process. Also troubling is the atheistic mantra, 'God is just an imaginary friend for adults,' which is repeated throughout by various characters for supposed comic effect."

J. Robert Parks (The Phantom Tollbooth) is not so troubled by the film. "A good cast and simple direction can make up for a lot of mistakes in a movie. So it is with The Big Bounce. Wilson and Foster have a relaxed chemistry that we don't often see in comedies anymore. Most contemporary comedies are hyper, over-the-top affairs with gross-out gags and worse. The Big Bounce goes for a subtler approach." But he adds, "The entire con makes no sense at all."