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"Ocean's Twelve" Cast Has More Fun Than Audience

by Chris Bellamy  
 
 

“Ocean’s Twelve"
Warner Bros. Pictures
Directed by Steven Soderbergh
Screenplay by George Nolfi
Produced by Jerry Weintraub
Starring George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Don Cheadle, Vincent Cassel, Bernie Mac, Elliott Gould, Carl Reiner, Scott Caan, Casey Affleck, Shaobo Qin, Eddie Jemison, Andy Garcia and Julia Roberts
Rated PG-13

(out of four)

It’s only natural, really. When a movie makes a $192 million domestic gross, the immediate inclination these days is to rinse, repeat, and see if you can make even more money with a sequel. So I can hardly blame Warner Bros. or Steven Soderbergh and his cast of Hollywood heavyweights for wanting to make a follow-up to the 2001 hit remake "Ocean’s Eleven." What I can blame them for is for making an uninspired, only sporadically funny and rather pointless follow-up. "Ocean’s Twelve" is the kind of movie in which everyone involved clearly had a great time, even if they didn’t much care about making a good film.

"Ocean’s Eleven" was kind of brilliant in its own way; the writing was fantastic, the actors had impeccable chemistry and even better comic timing. This time around, the chemistry is still there, but most everything else has suffered. In fact, most of the movie slides by on nothing but chemistry. Despite some really funny moments, it’s hardly a worthy sequel, and it follows in this year’s unfortunate trend of highly anticipated, big-budget disappointments, joining the company of "Troy," "I, Robot," "The Village," "The Polar Express," and "Alexander."

The script, credited solely to George Nolfi ("Timeline"—you know, that crappy Paul Walker movie?), was adapted from Nolfi’s script, "Honor Among Thieves," which was originally intended to be a John Woo action picture. That should tell you something right there. It’s amusing to imagine the thought of Danny Ocean (George Clooney) and Terry Benedict (Andy Garcia) inexplicably leaping through the air, two guns a-blazin’, a la "Mission: Impossible 2" and "Broken Arrow," but, come to think about it, that would make just about as much sense as a lot of what happens in "Ocean’s Twelve." Nolfi’s writing isn’t as strong as Ted Griffin’s was in the original. A lot of the time, the actors just seem to be improvising—sometimes it worked, and sometimes it didn’t.

"Ocean’s Twelve" is basically one big in-joke, as if the cast and crew were much more interested in amusing themselves than anything else. It seems like every other scene was another in-joke, another farce, like the scene when Tess (Julia Roberts) becomes involved in the heist (wink wink, nudge nudge, say no more, say no more).

But given that the cast all seem to prefer goofing off to making a good film, "Ocean’s Twelve" is probably better than it should be. Credit goes to Soderbergh, a master director who gives this sequel with style and, dare I say, panache. Soderbergh—who once again serves as his own director of photography under the pseudonym "Peter Andrews"—finds a lot of great location shots that help create the film’s sultry, sumptuous European atmosphere. And considering how much of a jumbled mess this story really is, Soderbergh does a fine job piecing it all together, making it seem like he’s really telling a cohesive story.

He isn’t, but I’ll try to summarize anyway. Somehow, Terry Benedict has found out who stole his $160 million three years ago, and he wants it all back—with interest. Since the crew is "too hot" to work anywhere in America, they decide to go overseas and try to pull off a series of jobs to make up the money. In a tiresome opening 20 minutes, we are reintroduced to all the characters, as Benedict confronts all of them, one-by-one. The 20-minute sequence is tedious and pointless—seriously, guys, we get the point. He’s mad. Let’s move on.

Even more characters are involved than in "Ocean’s Eleven." The guy who tipped off Benedict about who stole his money is a master thief dubbed "The Night Fox," played by French actor Vincent Cassel. A competition is formed between Danny and The Night Fox to see who can steal a famous Faberge egg. Oh yeah, and there’s a cop hot on everyone’s tails, Isabel Lahiri (Catherine Zeta-Jones), who coincidentally happens to be a former lover of Rusty (Brad Pitt). There are several flashbacks to their once-passionate relationship, and voila! We have our first subplot.

If I seem a little too harsh on the film, I don’t mean to be. There are actually quite a few very funny scenes, even a select few that could rival some in the original. For example, in one great scene in a bar, Robbie Coltrane plays a crook who helps the crew find their next big score, and who seems to communicate only in an extremely elaborate code. The three others involved in the scene – Danny, Rusty and Linus (Matt Damon) – play the scene perfectly straight, creating one of the most entertaining scenes in the film.

But scenes like that are too few, and the in-jokes are too many. The self-awareness grows tiring. Consider the aforementioned scene when Tess has to help out with the heist. Now, while some reviewers may have already spoiled the little twist that drives this scene, I won’t. But suffice it to say that what happens obliterates all possibility of suspension of disbelief. Is it kind of funny? Yes. Is it also very stupid? Yes indeed. I chuckled, but I felt like an idiot for having done so, knowing that I was being made a fool of. I wanted my endorphins back.

The film’s two climactic sequences completely lost me—maybe they were trying to be a bit too clever. The first, which involves the Night Fox, is so completely illogical and makes so little sense, it’s almost insulting. (Doesn’t anyone know what the word ‘random’ means?!) And when I thought about it, I realized that it, too, might very well be yet another in-joke, this time in reference to Zeta-Jones’s heist thriller "Entrapment." The second climax – the movie’s ultimate resolution – is practically impossible to understand. I found myself asking such question as, "Wait, what was—," "But how did—," "But when—," "Wait, did they—," and of course, "Wha…?

But then, all those paled in comparison to the most important question of all: Who cares
chrisb@red-mag.com

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