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Review: 'Big Bounce' is a world-class flop

Movie wastes good cast, nice scenery

By Paul Clinton
CNN Reviewer

Foster and Wilson
Sara Foster and Owen Wilson in "The Big Bounce."

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(CNN) -- This is the second time around for a screen adaptation of Elmore Leonard's novel "The Big Bounce." Back in 1969, it bombed with a cast featuring Ryan O'Neal, Leigh Taylor Young and Lee Grant.

Now it's happened again, which just goes to show that not everything from the man who wrote "Get Shorty," "Out of Sight," and "Jackie Brown" (based on the book "Rum Punch") translates to box office gold.

"The Big Bounce" is what they call a "postcard" movie: a lousy screenplay, but a great location for a vacation. Starring in this baked ham -- and enjoying a free trip to Hawaii -- are Owen Wilson, Morgan Freeman, Gary Sinise, Charlie Sheen, Willie Nelson, Bebe Neuwirth and Harry Dean Stanton.

I hope they had a grand time, but that won't help you if you're stuck watching this waste of celluloid.

Who's getting conned? The audience

Director George Armitage and screenwriter Sebastian Gutierrez have managed to hit every wrong note possible with this heavy-handed tale of a con man and his wacky cohorts.

Wilson plays the unfortunate con man in question, Jack Ryan. Sinise plays a shady real estate developer, Ray Ritchie, who is Ryan's nemesis and the target of his con.

Sheen plays Ritchie's goon, and Freeman plays a judge, Walter Crewes, who takes an unlikely interest in Ryan. Model-turned-actress Sara Foster makes her unfortunate film debut as Nancy, the girl playing both sides of the con.

Bounce
Charlie Sheen, Morgan Freeman and Wilson talk things over in "The Big Bounce."

Oops, did I give something away? Trust me, if you get to the end of this film, you really won't care.

Leonard is known for his quirky characters, sharp dialogue and stinging wit -- all of which are missing from "The Big Bounce." True, some of his other literary signatures are here: the characters live on the fringes of society, most are seedy, and all are pursuing questionable scams -- and as in any con movie, everybody double-crosses everybody.

So the film does have the ingredients. But, instead of a comedic soufflé like "Get Shorty," you get the first, half-cooked pancake off the grill.

Fun, sex, stupidity

At the barely beating heart of the film is the love story between Nancy and Jack. Neither can be trusted and they both know it, but they're still attracted to each other and soon find themselves planning to steal hundreds of thousand of dollars in cash from the evil Ritchie, who happens to be seeing Nancy behind his wife's back.

A stolen car, a midnight swim in the nude (oooooh), and breaking into a multi-million-dollar yacht are just part of the fun these two wild and crazy kids get into. But don't assume that the film is actually exciting.

One of the really stupid scenes involves a macho cop who had hassled Jack at the beginning of the film. When Nancy and Jack later break into his house, they're surprised when the cop and his tattooed male lover get out of the shower.

This cheap laugh, based on a stereotype and aimed at morons, is even accompanied by the soundtrack to the musical "Oklahoma" playing in the background. Well, slap my knee!

The film's only saving grace is the beautiful location. The lush vegetation of Oahu, the pounding surf of the North Shore, and the gorgeous beaches are all here and wonderfully photographed.

In fact, the scenery is likely to make you want to go on vacation. So start your travel fund with the money you would have spent going to this film, and put it in a jar labeled "Aloha."

Or better yet, get someone else to pay for your trip. Everyone in this movie did.

"The Big Bounce" opens nationwide on January 30. It is rated PG-13 with a running time of 88 LONG minutes.


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