WHAT'S IT ALL ABOUT?
I never thought I'd say this about an Owen Wilson film, but he is the weak link of The Big Bounce. I'm a big fan of Wilson, having enjoyed his laidback hilarity from the very beginning in Wes Anderson's Bottle Rocket. Most of his movies strike just the right note for me: They work in tandem with his off-kilter personality, the screenplay and his natural wit finding a groove and going with it. In the case of The Big Bounce, it seems as if two very strong personalities are at odds with each other. You might think that Elmore Leonard is a good fit with Wilson's smirky humor, but the truth is that they've crashed together to bring us a pretty boring, aimless caper flick.
Wilson plays Jack Ryan, an easygoing blond surfer type with modest ambitions and a casual attitude toward petty crime. He's enjoying the waves on the North Shore when he suddenly finds himself on the wrong side of the law after slamming his construction-site boss (Vinnie Jones) in the jaw with a baseball bat. The plot wanders from there, introducing philosophical local judge Walter Crewes (Morgan Freeman, seeming to think there's more to this movie than there is), hotter-than-hell beach babe Nancy Hayes (Sara Foster), local crime lynchpin Ray Ritchie (Gary Sinese), and Ritchie's clueless henchman Bob Rogers Jr. (Charlie Sheen). In the midst of a teasing fling with Nancy, Jack suspects that she's manipulating him to get at Ritchie's money, but he doesn't care because the sex is so great.
It's tough to care about a lead character that doesn't seem to make a single forceful decision through the entire film. The movie bounces around Jack, its tone light and careless, and it frequently segues to unnecessary inserts of killer waves surfed by awesome dudes. You get the feeling that the cast and crew saw this film as a vacation more than a filmmaking endeavor. The supplements (see below) enforce that notion. But I believe the dooming aspect of this production is that Elmore Leonard's wry plotting just doesn't jive with Wilson's stoned, dumb-guy persona. Wilson's presence ends up deflating the mystery aspects of the story, draining them of any interest, and turning The Big Bounce into a comedy that wants to also be a kind of Hawaii noir but ends up being neither funny nor effectively mysterious.
The film's director, George Armitage (who helmed the far-better Grosse Pointe Blank) makes more mistakes than just misfiring on the film's casting and tone. The plot leads to a climax that just lays there like a splayed-open book. It's a rushed ending, and even so, you want to skim through it, because even after only an hour with these sketchily drawn characters, you don't really care where they end up. The film's once saving grace, perhaps, is the debut of Sara Foster, who is naughty and gorgeous in all the right ways, and she and Wilson have a terrific chemistry that might have served another film better. But The Big Bounce is too tame to really generate any heat out of that coupling.
What a disappointing, frustrating film The Big Bounce is! I can't remember the last time I just sat in front of my TV, completely uninvolved, merely letting the imagery wash by. I must have looked like Jack Ryan himself, as he might watch a movie, sacked out on a couch, mouth hanging half open, a glazed, deadened look in his eyes. This movie has no life to it, no punch, no guts—the last thing I would have said about both Owen Wilson and Elmore Leonard.
HOW'S IT LOOK?
Warner presents The Big Bounce in a terrific anamorphic-widescreen transfer of the film's original 2.35:1 theatrical presentation. The film has a Hawaii vividness that'll knock you out. Colors are beautiful and solid, and detail is excellent, giving the image a nice filmlike depth. Skin tones seem spot-on. The print itself is exceedingly clean. This is one of those finely detailed images in which you can tell when the focus-puller is doing a poor job.
I really have little to complain about here. I noticed very minor edge halos, but they weren't really a factor. I truly had to search for them.
HOW'S IT SOUND?
The disc's Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track is a low-key affair, offering strong fidelity across dialog and sound effects and score, but offering little in the way of surround activity. Voices are clear and clean, and the bass is tight and loud in all the right places. The music gets the best treatment, with terrific dimensionality across the front. Surround sound is limited to ambience.
WHAT ELSE IS THERE?
There's not much here. What can you say when the primary supplement is a self-congratulatory 12-minute EPK featurette? This one, The Big Bounce: A Con in the Making, is your typical flashy piece with short, meaningless interviews with the stars, including Wilson, Freeman, Sheen, Sinise, Vinnie Jones, and Sara Foster. They talk about their characters, the Hawaii setting, and how fantastic the rest of the cast is.
Surfing the Pipeline is a 4-minute piece that talks briefly about surfing the North Shore, and about the stunt surfing peppered throughout the film. Wilson talks a little about taking lessons in preparation for the film.
Wicked Waves amounts to an 8-minute short film about surfing. If you're into that kind of thing, there's some good slow-motion photography here.
You also get the film's Theatrical Trailer in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen and Dolby Digital 2.0, as well as Trailers for Starsky and Hutch and The Whole Ten Yards.
WHAT'S LEFT TO SAY?
A bust of a movie, and mostly a bust of a DVD. (Image and sound quality are at least decent.) Worth a rental at most.