Does crime novelist Elmore Leonard sell the movie rights to his novels only after the filmmakers agree to use the Isely Brothers’s “It’s Your Thing” on the soundtrack? Following Out of Sight and TV’s Karen Sisco (which uses the track as its theme song), George Armitage’s The Big Bounce is the latest Leonard-inspired project of the past few years to feature the catchy ‘60s soul hit. While one may be tempted to draw a distinction between the author’s maverick criminal heroes and the song’s nonconformist spirit (embodied by its recommendation to “Do what you wanna do/I can’t tell you who to sock it to”), I suspect the real reason for this perplexing trend is sheer creative laziness. Certainly, a lethargic predictability plagues The Big Bounce, a stolid caper in which self-satisfied crooks volley quips at one another in between regularly scheduled double and triple crosses. Owen Wilson’s rakish amateur burglar Jack Ryan (no relation to Tom Clancy’s derring-do government agent) is a small-timer who knows better than to break and enter but nonetheless can’t resist his mischievous impulses, and he finds his soulmate in beguiling vixen Nancy (Sara Foster), the mistress of shady real estate developer—and Jack’s former employer—Ray Ritchie (Gary Sinise). Nancy convinces Jack to help steal $200,000 from Ray, but Ray is keeping his eye—as well as his right-hand man Bob Jr. (Charlie Sheen, sporting strange fuzz on his upper lip)—on the impulsive Jack. Our hero finds gainful employment with Walter (Morgan Freeman), a district judge and beachside resort owner, but as with all of Leonard’s tales of illicit fun in the sun, everyone’s got at least one hand in the cookie jar. Unfortunately, Armitage becomes so distracted by Hawaii’s beautiful scenery and the sight of Foster in a yellow bikini that he quickly loses track of his story, and instead of a slam-bang finale, the film’s anticlimactic big heist unspools with all the excitement of watching ice melt. Still, one might forgive the ending’s limp inconsequentiality if the preceding shenanigans exhibited even a hint of playful gusto. Whereas the best of Leonard’s snappy prose infuses fantastical B-movie platitudes with realistic naturalism, Sebastian Gutierrez’s tone-deaf script makes every other line of dialogue sound as if it were being directed squarely at the audience. Warning Jack about the untrustworthy Nancy, Freeman remarks, “Sometimes things are exactly as they appear.” In the case of the utterly unremarkable The Big Bounce, truer words were never spoken.
A surprisingly gorgeous video transfer from Warner Home Video for The Big Bounce. Though colors are a little muted at times, it should be noted that the film's uncomplicated cinematography was never intended to call too much attention to itself. Skin tones are exceptional, edge enhancement is nowhere to be seen, and the print from which the transfer was made is impeccably clean. Look no further than the breathtaking opener and the beach shot that begins chapter 10 for examples of everything this transfer gets right. Like the video, the audio track is equally unpretentious-the equivalent of holding a seashell up to your ear: Dialogue is crisp and the surrounds, while fully engaged throughout, are never overwhelming to the point of distraction.
Slim pickings: a disposable making-of featurette ("The Big Bounce: A Con in the Making"), two surfing features, "Surfing the Pipeline: Surfing in the Aloha State" and "Wicked Waves: Stunt Surfer Outtakes," that should bore fans of Stacy Peralta's Riding Giants, and trailers for The Big Bounce, Starsky & Hutch, and The Whole Ten Yards.
Does Elmore Leonard sell the rights to his novels only after filmmakers agree to use the Isely Brothers's "It's Your Thing" on the soundtrack? Inquiring minds..