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Ocean's Twelve

A film review by Christopher Null - Copyright © 2004

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Danny Ocean and his crew of master thieves are back on the hunt in Ocean's Twelve, but damn if you won't have a hard time mustering up an opinion about it.

Twelve picks up 3 1/2 years after the surprisingly delightful original (er, remake), with our heroes living high on the hog on the spoils from robbing Terry Benedict's (Andy Garcia) Bellagio casino. Abruptly, Benedict finds them all -- Danny (George Clooney) is married to Tess in the suburbs, Frank (Bernie Mac) is running a nail salon, and so on -- and demands his money back in two weeks.

Rather than flee for their lives or come up with a better plan, the original band of 11 reconvenes to find another big job so they can cough up the $100 million or so they have blown in the intervening years. And so it's off to Europe, where a strange series of burglings ensues as the group tries to come up with the cash in short order.

As it turns out, things don't go smoothly. First there's Rusty's (Brad Pitt) former flame, Isabel (Catherine Zeta-Jones), a detective on high-profile robberies, who's immediately on the case when Rusty comes around again. Complicating things further is a French master thief (Vincent Cassel) who challenges Ocean in a clichéd game of "who's the best thief" -- the kind that only happens in the movies.

Oh, Steven Soderbergh, you and your twisty plots!

Cutting to the chase, Ocean's Twelve is sometimes fun and sometimes funny, but never remotely as fun or funny as the film that preceded it. Characters that were richly developed in the first film are left to dry out into caricatures and generic crooks in the sequel. Even the scene-stealing Casey Affleck and Scott Caan, as feuding Mormon brothers, can't rescue the film from degrading into a series of sad attempts at "witty banter" filtered through a lazy screenplay.

The film's few gem moments are its most self-referential, namely a sequence where Julia Roberts's Tess (she's #12) is hastily recruited to participate in a heist that's gone wrong. Part of the scam is that Tess -- in the movie -- is thought to closely resemble the real Julia Roberts, which leads to a number of crazy pop culture encounters regarding her much-talked-about marriage and pregnancy.

It's funny, but a movie can't run on kitsch alone, and Soderbergh rapidly runs out of steam (though the film yawns past two hours in length), trying to get us to care about a major subplot involving the estranged father of Isabel, a character we don't really like to begin with.

Ultimately, Soderbergh tries to trick us into thinking there's more going on here than there really is (and you can't blame him), relying on a blaring soundtrack and a jumpy camera (with overused zoom lens) to hide the holes in George Nolfi's script. (His sole additional credit is the awful Timeline.) But blame should be spread all around: This is just fundamentally weak material, even discounting the cacophonic title.

Eight to go.
RATING (out of 5):

Director: Steven Soderbergh

Producer: Jerry Weintraub

Screenwriter: George Nolfi

Stars: Brad Pitt, Catherine Zeta-Jones, George Clooney, Julia Roberts, Andy Garcia, Casey Affleck, Scott Caan, Shaobo Qin, Bernie Mac, Don Cheadle, Matt Damon, Carl Reiner, Eddie Jemison, Elliott Gould, Robbie Coltrane, Vincent Cassel, Eddie Izzard, Bruce Willis

MPAA Rating: R

Year of Release: 2004

Released on Video: Not Yet Available

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