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A review of Oceans Twelve (PG-13)

click to enlarge Hunka hunka Oceans Twelve: Matt Damon, Brad Pitt and - George Clooney steam up the screen.
  • Hunka hunka Oceans Twelve: Matt Damon, Brad Pitt and George Clooney steam up the screen.

Ocean's Twelve (PG-13)
Warner Bros.

What do you get when you put six of Hollywood's most fabulous stars in a sequel to a remake of a movie that wasn't very good to begin with? Take your immediately correct answer and imagine Ocean's Twelve as being twice as bad as you suppose, and you'll have a good idea of how dreadful Steven Soderbergh's phoned-in fulfillment of George Nolfi's scattershot script is. Bland inside jokes, perpetual self-referencing dialogue, and foreign heists that will put babies to sleep fill up this truncated movie that could only have been made better if it were two hours shorter.

Our vacuous thief team members are reunited after they're ratted out by French super-pro burglar Francois Toulour (Vincent Cassel), aka "The Night Fox", to casino owner Terry Benedict (Andy Garcia) for the Vegas heist we witnessed in Ocean's Eleven. In order to save their hides by paying off their $160 million debt plus interest to Benedict, Danny Ocean's (George Clooney) crew heads to Amsterdam to perform an impossible robbery made more impossible by the fact that someone beats them to the punch. Although the complex job involves raising an entire building, Soderbergh doesn't see fit to show the audience what the ostensibly levitating building looks like. This is the first cinematic gyp of many that follow as thick-as-a-brick wit substitutes for action.

For the first 20 minutes of the movie, we get a mundane reintroduction to our cast of thieves as they join together to plan a robbery that will enable them to repay their debt. Catherine Zeta-Jones adds a wrinkle to the plot as Isabel Lahiri, a hotshot Europol detective romantically attached to Rusty Ryan (Brad Pitt) when she isn't trying to solve robberies.

Repaying their debt becomes a secondary concern when a recorded message, in the freshly emptied Amsterdam safe they attempt to rob, challenges the group to a robbery duel with the best thief in the world. But already the audience has been given too little too late because the glorious heist we've been promised is merely a quick and dull misdirection meant to frame jocular humor among thieves lacking in personality.

When Danny Ocean asks one cohort after another if he thinks he looks 50, the pseudo-ironic question reverberates in the audience's mind about Clooney's actual age (he was born in 1961). It's a silly moment in the movie that exemplifies the film's brand of self-referential humor that must seem terribly funny to the actors involved yet utterly petty to an audience member.

Ocean's Eleven was embarrassing for the Hollywood cookie-cutter success it enjoyed in spite of its less-than-mediocre qualifications. Ocean's Twelve sinks to a deeper and more insidious level of failure because the movie is so much like a glossy airline magazine. You can turn the pages with bleary jet-lagged eyes and see locations, clothes and pretty faces that tacitly reassure you that you will have a safe landing as you eat your croissant and banana.

Director Soderbergh, despite his successes with such films as Out of Sight, Traffic and Erin Brokovich, is ultimately a cold director with no sensitivity for the emotional charges that motivate characters to act as they do. His vision can be best described as a non-vision; he's interested not in engaging his audience but rather in desensitizing them with an intellectual and emotional impotence that resonates with the voyeuristic reality of James Spader's character from Soderbergh's breakthrough debut film sex, lies and videotape.

-- Cole Smithey

Carmike 10, Chapel Hills 15, Cinemark 16, Tinseltown

  • A review of Oceans Twelve (PG-13)

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