The Big Bounce (2004) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)


What the hell went wrong here?

  • The story idea was fine. It was an Elmore Leonard story, like the ones that drove Get Shorty and Out of Sight.
  • The starring cast is solid: Morgan Freeman, Gary Sinese, Owen Wilson.
  • The script layered in some colorful minor characters played by Willie Nelson, Harry Dean Stanton, Bebe Neuwirth, Charlie Sheen, and Vinnie Jones.
  • There are some crazy cameos. Remember Have a Little Tea With Goldie from the Smothers Brothers show? Goldie is in this movie. Remember NFL running back Tony Dorsett? He's here as well.
  • There's a little nudity from sexy young Sara Foster.

It should result in a frothy and pleasant concoction, right?

You would think so, as I did. I like all that stuff, and was eager to see this film.

You'd be just as wrong as I was.

Owen Wilson tries to do a Bob Hope - to play one of those characters who is technically part of the movie, but is really apart from it, commenting on it. He doesn't talk aside to the audience, but he never takes any situation as seriously as he should. After all, it's only a movie.

That premise doesn't really work.

Throughout the film, the audience is left scratching its collective head, wondering how much to take seriously and how much is in his mind or something. The movie can't decide, so some scenes end up playing out as surrealism. An example: Wilson gets caught burying a box full of stolen wallets by another character, Freeman, who plays the local judge. Then a cell phone goes off inside the buried box. The judge witnesses the entire burial scene and hears the phone, but doesn't seem to care. Owen knows he's been caught, but acts completely unsurprised when the judge brushes it off.


When we find out that the judge is the real criminal mastermind on the island, we can look back on that scene and realize why he ignored the obvious evidence of Wilson's felony, but the scene just doesn't work in the moment. We may be able to accept it, but the Wilson character should not. He should be thinking, "Wait a minute. Why is this judge letting me get away with a felony right under his nose, when he knows I have a long record of B&E? Why is he pretending not to care?" Wilson should know something stinks. But no-o-o. Wilson just accepts it, and continues to march blindly forward because, like a Bob Hope character, he knows he's in a crime movie, and he needs to keep moving forward toward the actual crime.


Sara Foster shows her buns clearly in a nice shot, as she suns herself. In two other shots, she is supposed to be naked, but she is very far from the camera, and/or could be using a double.

So is it all supposed to be a comedy? Well sort of. And it's all supposed to be a crime noir. Tough balancing act. It is possible to balance the two, as other Elmore Leonard movies have shown, but it requires talent and subtlety. (Soderbergh directed Out of Sight.) Sometimes it is better just to make a decision, like "It will be a mystery, taking place in the real world. The characters will take their lives seriously, but comedy will be derived from the dialogue". If the director had made such a decision and stuck to it, this would have been a far better movie, although it would still have been lightweight entertainment.

As it is, the entire film is lacking in both energy and focus. Sinese, as the rich "mark", has to end up a one-dimensional baddie, because he is given too little opportunity to develop a character. Bebe Neuwirth, as Sinese's rich and perennially drunk wife, seems to be acting in a different film, one requiring Dudley Moore in drag. The Charlie Sheen character has way too much screen time, even though he seems completely unnecessary to the plot and could have been written out altogether. Owen Wilson is the same as Owen Wilson always is, and that was just fine. After all he was playing a laid-back surfer and occasional petty criminal, a role Wilson was born to play! But Wilson needs an intense or  high-energy foil to balance his laid-back charm. Her needs Jackie Chan or Steve Buscemi or somebody like that. Instead, he is paired up with Morgan Freeman, the only actor in the world who is even more nonchalant than Wilson himself. Their lifeless interaction consists entirely of mellow indirection, non-confrontation, and shrugging off things they should take notice of.

DVD info from Amazon

no meaningful features

It's all supposed to come together at the end, when the film finally leads up to a big caper, but that heist is completely mismanaged and mistimed by the writer and director, so that the twists and revelations in the denouement are both confusing and lacking in tension.

Skip it. Major disappointment.

The Critics Vote ...

  • Super-panel consensus two and a quarter stars. James Berardinelli 2.5/4, Roger Ebert 2/4.

The People Vote ...

  • IMDB summary. IMDb voters score it 4.5/10. Yahoo voters score it a C-.
  • Box Office Mojo. A mega flop. It rolled out to 2300 theaters, but opened in 13th place on the worst weekend of the year. That's about as close to a hit as I am to replacing Brad Pitt as Achilles in Troy 2. Total gross: about six million.
The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics, or a C- from our system. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or a D on our scale. (Possibly even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. (C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by genre fans, while C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie although genre addicts find it watchable). D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well. Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-.

Based on this description, this is a C-. The film had great potential, and has lots of good elements, but ultimately ends up being for genre nuts only, and will even disappoint most of them because it keeps switching gears clumsily from comedy to noir/caper.

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