As it was based on an Elmore Leonard book, you might expect the same sort of irreverent and twisty comedy from The Big Bounce found in Get Shorty or Out of Sight. Unfortunately, the remake is as anti-climactic as the 1969 Ryan O'Neal original. Not quite funny enough to call it a successful comedy, yet not tense enough to be a crime drama, thriller or mystery. The Big Bounce had its endearing moments but, on the whole, left me unsatisfied.
The story follows Jack Ryan (Owen Wilson) that cute, lovable troubled and imperfect fellow that Wilson plays so well. In an attempt to escape his past, Jack runs to Hawaii where he loses his construction job after hitting his racist foreman with a baseball bat. The corrupt company owner Ray Ritchie (Gary Sinise) and his right-hand-man Bob Jr. (Charlie Sheen) threaten him to leave town. Before Jack has too much time to consider the matter, he is swooped up into the employment and legal advice of the district Judge Walter Crewes (Morgan Freeman), who also owns a beach resort where he puts Jack to work. Jack gets involved with Ritchie's mistress Nancy Hayes (Sara Foster) and is pulled into a scheme to rob Ritchie's $200,000 mafia payoff.
With such a cast, not to mention a just-more-than-cameo by Willie Nelson, I came to expect too much of the film. While each acted their part admirably, especially the awkward and oddly mustached Charlie Sheen, the characters lacked development and even motivation. What was apparent was their archetypal nature. They were recognizable as the beautiful, spoiled mistress; the good-natured crook; the sleazy, philandering and corrupt businessman; and his bumbling assistant. In this way it is easy to hate Ray Ritchie, fall in love with Jack and pity Bob Jr., while at the same time knowing nothing about them. For example, Sinise has very little time in which to showcase his acting skills, for his screen time is rather minimal.
And yet, there is something comforting about being able to trust in the stereotypes and let yourself be drawn into a plot that, while you've seen before, was enjoyable the first time. The only problem here is that The Big Bounce bills itself as a crafty disguise of who's good, who's not, and who's really being scammed. But I wasn't particularly surprised. If it's too good to be true, it probably is.
The Hawaiian backdrop did nothing to amend these character and plotline woes either. While the Oahu beaches and aqua, white-crested waves, were every bit as pretty as actress Hayes's swaying hips or Wilson's softly muscled chest, they were extraneous and trite. There are at least 3 or 4 scenes of Jack surfing that lend little to his character and only unnecessary minutes to the film. The setting seems incidental, as the story could have taken place anywhere and in fact, very little of Hawaii's unique lifestyles or culture comes through.
While The Big Bounce did not fully capture my attention, there were some funny moments such as, Bob Jr. licking his finger to get his ring off, or amusing lines such as Walter Crewes's, "God is just an imaginary friend for grownups." But in terms of the film's overall appeal, Crewes's other important quote applies well: "Sometimes things are exactly as they appear…Sometimes."