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eye - 12.09.04


OCEAN'S TWELVE
***1/2

Starring George Clooney, Brad Pitt. Written by George Nolfi. Directed by Steven Soderbergh. (PG) 120 min. Opens Dec 10.

There are probably more movie stars per square inch in Ocean's Twelve than in any film since The Player, which is slyly referenced here in an exchange between Julia Roberts and a (thankfully) uncredited actor that approaches Charlie Kaufman levels of meta-hilarity.

Suspicions that the Ocean films are something of a Trojan horse ploy on the part of director Steven Soderbergh is not totally unfounded, but as a means to an end — filling studio coffers with holiday lucre to help secure future financing for smaller, riskier projects — it's successful, not to mention a good way to kill two hours. (Are you listening, Gus Van Sant? The studio pics don't need to be Finding Forrester.)

Ocean's Twelve is unapologetically an expensive way for George Clooney, Brad Pitt, et al. to dust off the old act and gallivant around various European locales, looking terrific and, occasionally, doing cool thief-type things, at which they are of course well practiced and wholly delightful.

Justifiably confident that the dynamics of his glittering cast will hold our attention, Soderbergh indulges his every chic hipster whim, switching styles, tone and temporalities with goofy abandon. The trade-off, if you can call it that, is that the film is less tightly plotted than its predecessor; the plot unfolds as a series of bald-faced cheats that would be galling but for their amiable, sheepish obviousness. With all the amply portioned and sun-dappled pleasure going around, fair play as defined by screenwriting manuals hardly seems a pressing issue.

Nor does the addition of Catherine Zeta-Jones to the spiffy ensemble matter much: as an officer of the law who also happens to be Pitt's ex-girlfriend, she's the ostensible villain of the piece, but gets upstaged by a returning Andy Garcia, as well as Vincent Cassel as a snooty French master thief who challenges the gang to a hilarious mine-is-bigger-than-yours professional duel and gets his snooty French comeuppance. ADAM NAYMAN

 

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