The Big Bounce | EW.com

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The Big BounceThe Big Bounce, starring Owen Wilson, is a remake of a lousy 1969 movie starring Ryan O'Neal, adapted from Elmore Leonard's first foray into loopy...The Big BounceComedyPG-13The Big Bounce, starring Owen Wilson, is a remake of a lousy 1969 movie starring Ryan O'Neal, adapted from Elmore Leonard's first foray into loopy...2004-01-29Scott CaanVinnie JonesKris KristoffersonBebe NeuwirthCharlie SheenGary SiniseHarry Dean StantonScott Caan, Vinnie Jones, Kris Kristofferson, Bebe Neuwirth, Charlie Sheen, Gary Sinise, Harry Dean StantonWarner Bros.
Owen Wilson, Sara Foster, ...

(The Big Bounce:Frank Connor)

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The Big Bounce

Genre: Comedy; Starring: Morgan Freeman, Owen Wilson, Scott Caan, Vinnie Jones, Kris Kristofferson, Bebe Neuwirth, Charlie Sheen, Gary Sinise, Harry Dean Stanton; Director: George Armitage; Author: George Armitage, Sebastian Gutierrez; Release Date Wide: 01/30/2004; MPAA Rating: PG-13; Distributor: Warner Bros.

The Big Bounce, starring Owen Wilson, is a remake of a lousy 1969 movie starring Ryan O’Neal, adapted from Elmore Leonard’s first foray into loopy crime fiction after his early run of Western-themed yarns. And as such, the new comedy caper had pretty much nowhere to bounce but up. I just didn’t expect it to bop.

That it does is due in good part, of course, to Leonard’s trademark bunco scramble of double-crossing the two-bit double-crossers who traditionally brighten the author’s day. But this short, riffy redo – the whole game is set up and knocked down in 84 minutes, nutty late-’60s-style brassy titles, theme music, and all – owes as much to the subtly subversive, loosey-goosey direction of director George Armitage (”Grosse Pointe Blank”), and even more to the jazz-jam performances of its surprising cast.

Wilson is Jack Ryan, scroungeabout drifter and amiable slouch, whose shenanigans have been moved (wisely, from a bikinis-on-parade point of view) from the book’s Michigan to the warm and sunny Hawaiian island of Oahu. While looking for a good con, a good fling, or a little of both, Jack attracts the attention of a laid-back local district judge (Morgan Freeman). He also ruffles the feathers of his slimy real estate developer boss, Ray (Gary Sinise), and Ray’s wormy right-hand man (Charlie Sheen). And he falls, in a trouble-meets-trouble way, for Nancy Hayes (model-turned-bikini-parading actress Sara Foster), an armful of temptation and Ray’s mistress, who lures Jack into a plot to steal the boss’ dough.

The plot fronds (in a script by Sebastian Gutierrez, who also went to the B-movie well for ”Gothika”) weave together like the brim of a cheap raffia sun hat, loose and fraying. The what-me-worry slapdashery of the story, meanwhile, brings out the best in after-hours ease of performance, especially from Wilson, whose semistoned ooze has never been funnier or in better blend with the rest of his cast. Too often the actor’s surfer-tinted drollery is set against the frantic tempo of a cymbal clanger like Jackie Chan or Eddie Murphy, and the two styles don’t so much mesh as mash. But here, especially with Freeman as a sly cat and Sheen embodying a resentful weasel, Wilson has perfected his knuckleball delivery, and his personification of bleached-blond slacking. (His tousled hairstyle has now entered Meg Ryan territory.) He’s found a place for himself, not among opposites, but among experienced actors who have fun playing at Wilson’s same no-sweat pace; there’s not a pro among them – not Freeman (taking it nice and easy) or Sheen, or bonus bit players like Bebe Neuwirth, Willie Nelson, or Harry Dean Stanton – who would ever need to break into a trot, let alone a Jackie Chan-ish gallop, to get a laugh.

And Armitage knows this. ”The Big Bounce” is shot in the tawdry fantasy style of its cusp-of-the-’70s heritage, all beach houses, sunsets, and vistas of temptation. It’s served whipped and diced as casually as guacamole dip, tart and tasty and good with a couple of cold drinks. By not trying too hard, this remake of a dumb movie has got spring in its step. The bounce is on us.

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