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Less pleasing by one

By Lady Liberty
web posted December 13, 2004

Ocean's 12
**1/2 out of 4

Oceans 12I saw the remake of Ocean's 11 a few years ago, and I liked it. So when I learned there was a sequel that brought back all of the original cast members, I immediately knew I'd have to see it. Still, I paid attention to the few reviews I saw before actually heading to the theatre. CNN was quite excited about the film, and called it even better than the first one, filled with plot twists, and a lot of fun to watch. But Entertainment Weekly gave it a D+ (for comparison purposes, it didn't even rank Alexander that low). Obviously, I was more intrigued than ever, and headed right to the theatre on opening weekend.

In Ocean's 11, Danny Ocean (George Clooney) and his crew of misfit criminals rob a supposedly impenetrable Las Vegas vault of $160 million belonging to casino mogul Terry Benedict (Andy Garcia). Between the end of that movie and the beginning of Ocean's 12, the team members have gone their separate ways. Most of them have even been trying to play it straight, including Danny who has since remarried his ex-wife (and Benedict's former girlfriend), Tess (Julia Roberts). Those efforts have not been a resounding success. But matters are dramatically complicated for the entire group when Benedict tracks each of them down and gives them an ultimatum: pay him back in two weeks -- including interest -- or face the very unpleasant consequences.

Recognizing that they're likely too "hot" to work again in America, the troupe heads off to Europe where detail man Rusty Ryan (Brad Pitt) has plenty of contacts as well as a secret past. While everybody else goes along with the plan simply because they know they have to do something to get Benedict to back off, Linus Caldwell (Matt Damon) is actually kind of excited about the new opportunity. In fact, he thinks he's matured somewhat since the first heist and he's interested in taking on a larger role. A bemused Ryan tolerates the idea even as other team members jostle each other a bit before settling on a plan. But Europe's premier thief (Vincent Cassel) is none too thrilled that Ocean's gang is invading his territory, and police detective Isabel Lahiri (Catherine Zeta-Jones) is hot on the trail of Ryan and, as a result, the rest of the team as well.

From Amsterdam to Rome, the thieves chase targets and ideas. But with time running out and obstacles cropping up everywhere, there's some question as to whether Ocean's fate lies in death -- or in prison. Eventually, a reluctant team member summons Tess to help out wiith a job, and a last, desperate effort to save the day is launched.

There's little question that the cast of Ocean's 12 is superlatively talented. Among other members of the cast not mentioned above are Don Cheadle, Bernie Mac, Eddie Jemison, Casey Affleck, Shaobo Qin, Elliott Gould, Scott Caan, and Carl Reiner. Most have Ocean's 11 on their résumé; some have more movie credit themselves than several of the others combined. Director Stephen Soderbergh, of course, was also the director of the much-lauded Traffic as well as Erin Brockovich (in fact, Soderbergh was nominated for Best Director awards for both films, and deservedly so). There are multiple ties between cast members, and between the actors and the director. Julia Roberts won an Oscar for her turn as the title character of Erin Brokovich; Catherine Zeta-Jones, you may recall, was criticially acclaimed for her part in Traffic; George Clooney, who worked with Soderbergh on the successful Out of Sight, is Soderbergh's partner in the production company they call Section 8. And finally, most of the actors are friends. Those relationships -- and the obvious fun the parties have when they're together -- fortunately translate well on screen and add another layer of entertainment value to the movie.

The script is largely quite clever though it frankly has moments where it all too apparently had no idea what to say next. But wonderful direction and cinemetography, including Soderbergh's trademark handheld camera work, add such constant interest that lapses in dialogue are forgivable. Although the movie is never truly believable, it also never ceases to be entertaining. Is it as good as CNN's critic claims? No, it isn't. But it's also far better than Entertainment Weekly has said. If you're looking to spend a couple of hours with a bemused smile on your face sprinkled with moments of outright laughter, Ocean's 12 won't disappoint you. If you are, on the other hand, looking to be dazzled with an Oscar contender, I'd hold out until The Aviator is released in a couple of weeks.

POLITICAL NOTES: We should all keep in mind that the heroes of the film are theoretically the bad guys. And yet we root for them. Why? Well, probably because they're a lot more likable (oh, okay, and handsome, too) than the good guys. They're also quite frankly a lot more fun. It's interesting to note that, regardless of the seriousness of the movie (and Ocean's 12 is a far cry from serious), there are more and more bad guys presented as heroic these days. While that certainly says something about society in general, it's not much of a stretch to consider it as implying something about the authorities as well. Oh, yes. One other political note of import: There's a line about Frenchmen that's just too good, and not to be missed.

FAMILY SUITABILITY: Ocean's 12 is rated PG-13 for language, and that rating is probably about right. Too complicated and jumpy for young kids, it's slick enough and modern enough that most teens will like it just as much as most adults.

Lady Liberty is a graphic designer and pro-freedom activist currently residing in the Midwest. More of her writings and other political and educational information is available on her web site, Lady Liberty's Constitution Clearing House, at http://www.ladylibrty.com. E-mail Lady Liberty at ladylibrty@ladylibrty.com.


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