ninth symphony films - movie reviews


DIRECTOR  -  george armitage

RATED  -  pg-13

GENRE  -  comedy

LENGTH  -  89 minutes

RELEASED  -  30 january 2004

DISTRIBUTOR  -  warner bros.

OFFICIAL SITE  -  big bounce

the big bounce - a shot from the film


buy the dvd from the big bounce at

buy the dvd from the big bounce at

a surfer/con man gets caught up in a heist in hawaii with the help of the local judge, a blonde beach bunny, and an assorted troupe of other strange people.


poster from the big bounce
buy the poster

other movies based on elmore leonard novels include out of sight, get shorty and jackie brown.


picture from the big bounce

picture from the big bounce

picture from the big bounce

picture from the big bounce


one out of four possible stars

What The Big Bounce lacks in intelligence it lacks in charm as well, as a cast with varying degrees of professional talent are trotted out against the beautiful backdrop of palm tree studded Hawaiian sunsets with few intelligent things to say. While it might be a compliment to call this film "quirky," that description would probably be a stretching of the truth as the film is not as appealing as quirky films have a tendency to be. Erratic might be a better descriptor, as the movie seems to dance back and forth from the unfunny to the desperately unfunny.

It wouldn't be a stretch to say that ninety-nine percent of the jokes in this film simply don't work. It's doubtful that the lame can be laid to rest solely on the shoulders of the actors, as most (read: only most!) of the actors have proven themselves worthy in various performances in past films, but in what seems to be a case of the wrong cast at the wrong time, Bounce's biggest mistake is in this area. Owen Wilson possesses a dry, natural sense of humor that has served him well in roles that have run from dramatic to comedic to sardonic. But though his efforts may occasionally elicit a laugh or two from the audience, his joking energy seems wasted on the vapid script and staid dialogue.

In a film that should ooze flair, forsaking substance for a heavy dose of style, The Big Bounce seems to lack the smooth rhythm it would need to be considered, "cool." The casting shows a lack of comedic chemistry between any of the stars and a serious lack of romantic chemistry between any of the lovers in the film. Most notably, Sara Foster, in her debut role as "Nancy," the perpetually scantily-clad beach-bunny, shows little intelligence in her attempts to flaunt witty banter and sultry sex-appeal toward her co-stars. Her appearance in the film seems wholly directed toward getting her into a bikini (which should impress viewers who think women who have bodies that look like ten-year-old boys are beautiful).

And while the sand, surf, and sun make a heady and scenic back-drop, there is one rather glaring mis-step in the casting of Foster: she can't act. Perhaps a few lessons down the road, Foster will be able to make a convincing case that she deserves a few compliments heaped upon her performance, but she certainly won't garner much praise with this role. Conversely, Morgan Freeman, who plays "Walter," a local low-ranking judge, brings his special brand of "can't take your eyes off him" performance art and is steady in his every scene.

But due to the screwy script (which tries to be "cool" but lacks any recognizable ingenuity regarding dialogue), Freeman's talents are wasted in a role that seems to be a series of badly written non sequiturs. Co-stars Charlie Sheen (in creepy mustache-mode) and Gary Sinese (in creepy toupee-mode) are strangely cast as well, performing as characters who never say what you would expect, but never say it in an interesting way.

Other roles in the film are filled by capable actors as well, though none of them can seem to rise above the failings in dialogue. And more than the dialogue issues, it's just difficult to understand why these specific actors were chosen for these roles. It's not that any actor is particularly weak in his or her role (excepting the aforementioned Foster), it's just that these specific actors don't belong in a film together. Or if they do (or are cast in co-starring roles in the future), their characters are wrongly assigned across the board. Would it be harsh to lay the blame on Elmore Leonard, upon whose novel the movie was based?

Leonard's novels have seen successful adaptation to the screen in past decades (1997's Jackie Brown and 1995's Get Shorty are two films that come to mind), but perhaps The Big Bounce just makes for a dull film. Certain novels just don't translate well to the screen, and this could very well be one of them. Who knows how much of the book's actual dialogue screenwriter Sebastian Gutierrez, who was also the writing mind behind the similarly lackluster film Gothika, included in the screenplay. All that is certain is that the dialogue feels used and abused, a failing that cannot possibly be blamed on the editor (decent screenplays often get chopped into something entirely different by the editor and director).

Unless the editor cast out all the "good" dialogue to the cutting room floor. Which seems unlikely. What is more probable is that a variety of difficult issues came together to prevent this film from becoming the easily funny and lightly entertaining farce it was meant to be. With the main mistakes showing up in casting and dialogue (two of the most important aspects of the film), things like beautiful cinematography just can't keep this leaky boat of a film from a quick sinking. This film is beautifully shot and will make everyone want to drop their entire life and hop the next jet to Hawaii, though visitors will probably hope never to run into the flaccid characters that populate this film.

Review by Kelsey Wyatt.

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