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"Big Bounce,' big problems

Elmore Leonard set his 1969 novel The Big Bounce in Michigan. Someone involved with the new film adaptation decided to set it in Hawaii instead.

The movie's likely to be a hit and, if it is, much of the credit should go to that person. Almost all of the appeal of The Big Bounce comes from stunning landscapes, gratuitous surfing shots and a lot of really pretty people in beachwear.

There's also a sly and extremely charismatic performance from Owen Wilson, the closest thing this movie has to a hero, and a solid one from the always-reliable Morgan Freeman.

Apparently, director George Armitage (Grosse Pointe Blank, Miami Blues) thought that was enough. He's content to offer us two-dimensional characters, and he seems totally uninterested in plot development. The Big Bounce is all setup and denouement. The climax is so low-key you don't even recognize it as the climax until it's over.

And maybe Armitage was right. In this case, gorgeous scenery, good acting and a healthy sampling of skin _ along with a few scattered chuckles _ are just enough to make for a passably amusing 90-minute movie.

The story starts with Jack Ryan (Wilson) getting into a fight with his foreman on a construction site. Ryan's a drifter, a petty thief and generally a loser, but the fight is enough to make him a bigshot on the island. The cops and the corrupt construction bosses hate him, a judge (Freeman) takes him under his wing, and an impossibly gorgeous woman pursues him. Ryan's too dimwitted to see that this is way more attention than he deserves, even when the judge essentially tells him so.

The gorgeous woman (model Sara Foster, just barely adequate in her film debut) has some unnecessarily complicated plan to steal $200,000 from her married boyfriend, and asks Jack to help.

It's obvious that plot twists are just around the corner, and when they come they're so convoluted that the characters have to spend the final 10 minutes of the film explaining what had gone on.

It takes a little effort to ignore the plot holes in The Big Bounce. But still, there's a sort of a laid-back charm to this movie that makes it an amusing accompaniment to your popcorn.

The Big Bounce

Grade: C+

Director: George Armitage

Screenplay: Sebastian Gutierrez, from an Elmore Leonard novel

Cast: Owen Wilson, Morgan Freeman, Sara Foster, Vinnie Jones, Charlie Sheen, Gary Sinise, Willie Nelson, Harry Dean Stanton, Bebe Neuwirth. Rating: PG-13; sexual content, nudity and language

Running time: 89 min.

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