> Volume 6 > Number 06


George Armitage

Owen Wilson
Sara Foster
Morgan Freeman
Gary Sinise
Charlie Sheen
Vinnie Jones

Release: 30 Jan. 04

The Big Bounce


As if the atrocious television spin-off of Out of Sight wasn’t enough to put an end to the deification of Elmore Leonard as a cool auteur-du-jour, The Big Bounce may do the deed. I happen to like Leonard’s smooth as a daiquiri style in fiction, and have rejoiced in what some filmmakers have done with it -- most notable Barry Sonnenfeld with Get Shorty, Steven Soderbergh with Out of Sight, and Quentin Tarantino with Jackie Brown -- but I always worried that, in the wrong hands, these books could be turned into artistic doomsday devices: caper films with wise guys who have nothing to say and settings that only facilitate their presence. Where a good director would cherish the chance to cultivate Elmore’s underlying edge, an indolent one would treat the adaptation as lazily as the characters in the book.

George Armitage is a prime example of the latter. Having likely spent his production time sipping mixed drinks on the beach and shouting the occasional “Action!” and “Cut!” to his crew and actors, his Leonard adaptation is devoid of any real pizzazz or depth. It’s the Elmore Leonard equivalent of the 1974’s The Great Gatsby, where the director seemingly fogged up the lenses by showering during every scene, surely sipping on a mint julep at the same time.

And yet the film features an actor whose writing has uncovered immeasurable depth in characters who epitomize the uncool. Co-writing Rushmore and The Royal Tenenbaums with Wes Anderson effectively christened Owen Wilson, an infectiously funny actor, as an important figure in contemporary screenwriting. Why, then, is he involved in such a poorly written project as this? Was it the money? The possible growing star power? The chance to work with Charlie Sheen? I don’t know, but at least he found something to help us forget I Spy, which may be worth more than his weight in Oscars

©2004, David Perry,, 6 February 2004