The Big Bounce

When the twisty plots and stylish dialogue of novelist Elmore Leonard are given half-hearted attention, you get the sort of lazy, dull mess that is “The Big Bounce.”

Set in beautiful Hawaii, the film stars Owen Wilson as Jack, a petty thief, surfer and layabout. At the outset, he is being fired from a construction job because he sides with the locals who don’t want their trees torn down … oh, and because he nails his boss in the face with a baseball bat.

Ignoring warnings from everyone to just leave the island and avoid trouble, he sticks around and befriends a judge and resort owner named Walter (Morgan Freeman). He also meets Nancy (Sara Foster), a gorgeous woman who is the mistress of crime boss Ray Ritchie (Gary Sinise), and the would-be lover of Ritchie’s underling, Bob Jr. (Charlie Sheen). She likes crime, and Jack likes her, so he shows her how to break into houses, steal wallets, that sort of basic stuff.

Then the opportunity arises for a major heist: $200,000 cash that Ritchie has lying around his hunting cabin. Jack and Nancy have to trust each other enough to work together, while simultaneously avoiding the watchful eye of Ritchie and the bumbling foolishness of Bob Jr.

The Leonard novel was made into a film once before, in 1969, starring Ryan O’Neal. That version, which I have not seen, is not highly regarded, but I can’t imagine it’s any less effective than the remake, directed by George Armitage (“Grosse Pointe Blank”). The story feels directionless for much of the time, and the final unravelings are thoroughly unsatisfying.

Owen Wilson, bless his heart, wrings a few laughs out of Sebastian Gutierrez’ lifeless script, and Morgan Freeman is a joy to watch in anything. But as an actress, former model Sara Foster is a good former model. Nice to look at, but man, she’s boring.

It’s hard for a film set on the beaches of Hawaii to be dreary, and this one isn’t. It’s sunny, upbeat and jovial, and not altogether unpleasant. It’s just so mediocre, so lackadaisical. It’s as though the movie itself is a beach bum who doesn’t want to put much effort into anything.

C- (1 hr., 28 min.; PG-13, a lot of profanity, including one F-word; some partial nudity, mild sexuality and a little violence.)