'Ocean's Twelve' doesn't always measure up

The comedy/heist caper "Ocean's Twelve" comes across like the European remake of "Ocean's Eleven."

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Warner Bros. Pictures Photo

From left, George Clooney, Elliott Gould, Brad Pitt and Don Cheadle are members of a gang of thieves who are forced to pull a series of elaborate heists in order to pay off a vicious casino boss in the comedic caper, "Ocean's Twelve."

Set across the pond, the film is slower, artsier and has fancier cinematography. Yet, ultimately, it's more incoherent and less satisfying.

Not exactly a surprise. The modern "Ocean's Eleven" was never structured to have a sequel. But after earning $183 million at the domestic box office, a sequel became inescapable.

On the positive side, director Steven Soderbergh and his large ensemble of A-listers return in this installment. The bad news is most of them aren't given much to do.

In my review of the 2001 romp, I praised the fact that "each of the 11 people brought into this risky venture are there for a reason. Their specialized skills are judiciously revealed as the movie progresses. (In the original film, little rationale is given for why that many men are needed to pull off the crime. It's almost as if Frank Sinatra just kept adding friends until that ballooned the amount into a figure he liked enough for the film's title.)"

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Ocean's Twelve ** 1/2

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The comedy/heist caper "Ocean's Twelve" comes across like the European remake of "Ocean's Eleven." The film is slower, artsier and has fancier cinematography. Yet, ultimately, it's more incoherent and less satisfying. This time the crew (led by George Clooney) must pull a heist to pay back a ruthless casino mogul (Andy Garcia).

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That criticism of the 1960 version applies in this latest case. Screenwriter George Nolfi ("Timeline") can't find a way to incorporate characters into the story whose expertise includes contortionism and robotic gadgetry. Often he just shows them waiting around while the main players -- George Clooney, Brad Pitt and Matt Damon -- spearhead the tale.

Since this project is almost more of a con game than a heist flick, it's best not to reveal too much of the plot. Suffice to say, ruthless casino mogul Terry Benedict (Andy Garcia) catches up with Danny Ocean (Clooney) and his crew, and he threatens to kill them unless they pay him back with interest. So the gang sets off for France, the Netherlands and Italy for some big-time thievery.

Things become complicated when the team -- which includes Don Cheadle, Bernie Mac, Elliott Gould and Carl Reiner -- are pursued by a Europol detective (Catherine Zeta-Jones, whose relationship with Pitt mirrors the Pierce Brosnan/Rene Russo dynamic in "The Thomas Crown Affair.") There's also a suave rival known as the Night Fox (Vincent Cassel) who challenges Ocean to determine which one is the world's greatest master thief.

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Warner Bros. Photo

Brad Pitt and Catherine Zeta-Jones star in "Ocean's Twelve."

While a variety of objects are stolen and cons get conned, the movie mainly gets kicks from having its celebrity cast poke fun at itself. There are ongoing jokes about Clooney's advanced age (he's really only 43). Damon complains about wanting "to play a more central role this time" -- which could refer to his character's part in the scam or the actor's billing in the picture.

Numerous celeb contribute cameos. The funniest involves Topher Grace ("That '70s Show") playing a burned-out version of himself, who admits, "I quit the TV show. And I totally phoned in that Dennis Quaid movie."

The most bizarre gag is that Ocean's wife Tess (Julia Roberts) is dragged into the actual heist because she bears an uncanny resemblance to a recently pregnant screen idol.

All of this is pretty amusing, even though it never furthers the plot.

Soderbergh (an Oscar winner for "Traffic") is much flashier this time around. He employs every visual gimmick out there: hand-held shots, oddball angles, multiple flashbacks, freeze frames.

All these camera tricks, cameos and in-jokes momentarily distract the viewer, but one is left with nagging questions once the theater lights go up.

How does the person who tipped off Benedict know of the crimes and where the gang members are hiding?

What purpose does the final con serve if the item has already been stolen?

Who is the twelfth person of the title?

Why is Pitt eating in every scene?

Still, there's no pressing need to address these concerns with an "Ocean's Thirteen."

Comments

gamer 14 years, 11 months ago

This is one sorry excuse for a film. Steven Soderbergh, a director perplexingly exalted for his relentless dedication to tedious, boring, yet star-power meanderings, scores again in Worst Batman Ever's Twelve.

Ocean's Twelve, the CSI of Hollywood, is the silver screen's quintessential example of force-feeding you the answers yet never even trying to paint a riddle. You accept what the script gives you because you have no other choice. It flaunts itself as some cerebral undertaking when in reality it's nothing more than unfocused, bumbling fiction.

In the end, you realize there is no way to figure out what they were going to do, but you get the sense you're supposed to be saying "Ooo, neato trick!" Most people will leave with the hollow retort of "Man, I never saw the ending coming" as a positive, not accounting for the fact that it has zero substance to back it up.

At least in Shyamalan's work he dangles clues like a carrot.

Jon's review was pretty right on, although I am not sure how it got a whole 2.5 stars from that critique.

The star power was deflated by uninspired writing, period. If you want to get the same fuzzy feeling from seeing a crapload of A-list talking heads in a two-hour timeframe, just watch the Academy Awards again...it's just as impacting.

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