The Big Bounce (review)

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Instant Amnesia

Loves me some Owen Wilson, so why wouldn’t I find The Big Bounce at least mildly diverting? And I do, but it’s as instantly forgettable as… as… as that other thing I can’t remember. I’m not sure I can even remember this movie — what was it called again? Something about Hawaii and a big scam and a great cast… but who were they? What were they doing? Who am I, and why am I here?
Beaches. Pretty beaches and gorgeous surf and pretty people and bunches of money. It’s as insubstantial as a tropical breeze, this flick, and trying to grab for it now, days — days, I tell you — later is like trying to recall a wisp of a dream after you wake up. But the bits I can just about grasp now seem to me to have been mostly inoffensive, silly stuff, completely harmless… No. Wait. I do remember one outrageously awful moment, an indulgence in gay stereotypes in an attempt to make us laugh that fails abysmally and should make everyone involved ashamed of themselves. But there’s only that one cringeworthy moment, which is something of an accomplishment for a January movie that can’t even be bothered to make a real stand against the awards bait still making the rounds.

It’s praising with faint damns, sort of: Hey, The Big Bounce ain’t actually awful! And at a brisk running time of a mere 80 minutes or so, its slim charms don’t have a chance to run out of steam.

Apart from the postcard-perfect locations, which make you want to jump on a plane to Oahu tomorrow, those charms consist almost entirely of the cast, or some of them, at least, though it’s true that even they’re not used to their best advantage. Wilson (Shanghai Knights, I Spy) is, once again, the laid-back anti-hero, the kind of insouciant everyman who turns his blatant and open cowardice and shallowness into virtues — he’s not pretending to be something he’s not — and if that never fails to amuse you, as it never fails to amuse me, then by all means put this one down as a rental in a few months. His Jack Ryan — not the globetrotting CIA analyst, alas — is a small-time crook who gets on the wrong side of a mobbed-up hotel developer, and not only because he’s scheming with the developer’s mistress to steal 200,000 grand from him, since of course the developer doesn’t know about this plan. But he suspects something is up, because he doesn’t trust his mistress, which makes one wonder why he lets her hang around so much, especially when he points out how replaceable she is. But that’s thinking too much about a movie that I’m not even supposed to be remembering.

Gary Sinise (Made-Up, The Human Stain) is Ray Ritchie, the developer, and he isn’t in the film anywhere near enough, since I loves me some Gary even more than I loves me some Owen, though Ray ain’t exactly Stu Redman. Model-turned-actress Sara Foster is Nancy Hayes, the mistress, is in the movie an awful lot wearing an awful little, which is probably the major selling point for this flick, though I myself find very skinny women in bikinis a tad frightening, like they might put someone’s eye out with their bony elbows. It may be just my lack of testosterone that marks her down as a major contributor to the film’s blandness, because who can keep all these very skinny Hollywood blondes straight? Jack finds her irresistible, naturally, but at least she’s smart enough to use his dopey lust to her own benefit. Oh, come on: you knew as much as Ray Ritchie did that she had an angle.

The Big Bounce is based on an Elmore Leonard novel, so you just know that absolutely everyone is playing at least one other person for a fool and everyone is up to no good and you can’t trust anyone, so you spend the entire film sort of wondering just why a judge like Walter Crewes would befriend Jack — I mean, you know it’s for no good reason, you’re just trying to figure out precisely what no good reason it is. It’s not like you particularly care, but it’s something to do, and Morgan Freeman (Bruce Almighty, Dreamcatcher) as the judge is, well, Morgan Freeman, and if you don’t get tired of someone of his stature elevating the joint just by being present, then you won’t get tired of him here. Even if it all really wouldn’t make much sense the next day if you could remember what it was all about. Which I can’t.

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