December 10, 2004
Buzzin Dozen: Oceans Twelve tests how much glam you can handle
By WALLACE BAINE
Sentinel film writer
If you could bottle the general fabulousness that seeps from every frame of "Oceans Twelve," the resulting elixir would most certainly be the most expensive potion in the known universe.
Gorgeous people in fetching clothes, hanging out in ravishing settings in old-Europe locales, playing slick and dazzling games of sleight-of-hand, all wrapped in a patina of effortless and tasteful style that disdains the cheap trappings of big diamonds and half-naked bimbos its like heaven as art-directed by GQ.
The sequel to Steven Soderberghs 2001 hit "Oceans Eleven" is exactly the kind of movie wed see more of if movie stars really had the power in Hollywood: a weekend with the gang, with no budget and the cameras rolling.
Youd have to be an awful grinch not to groove on the snappy adventures of Danny Ocean and his crew of international thieves. Soderbergh seems to realize that the "Ocean" franchise is hitting the same audience pleasure centers than the ever-diminishing James Bond franchise has hit for years. As a result, his film careens along with that combination of smug confidence and subtle humor than hip movie audiences cant live without.
When we last left Danny (George Clooney) and his friends, they had just pulled off an audacious and brazen heist of $160 million from casino big shot Terry Benedict (Andy Garcia). Three years down the road, the thieves are livin large until Benedict somehow finds them one by one, giving them exactly two weeks to re-pay the money, with interest.
Obviously, no one can be too selfish in such a crowded cast and everyone bows to the twin alphas of Clooney and Pitt. Thank goodness then for Matt Damon, willing to play overeager lieutenant Linus Caldwell who labors to emulate the natural command of leadership which Danny finds as easy as breathing.
Another stand-out is the radiant Zeta-Jones, new to the cast as Isabel Lahiri, a government agent hot on the trail of Oceans band of thieves. She and Pitts character, Rusty Ryan, have a past together (which the films intro brilliantly hints at). Theres a bit of Nancy Drew silliness about Isabel that keeps her from being entirely credible in the role as nemesis. But, hey, if youre hung up about standards of credibility in a movie like this, youre in the wrong theater.
Also worth mentioning is Gould, the one-time Hollywood icon now slumming in character parts. With enormous Jiminy Glick-style glasses and ridiculous suits, he plays the teams clowning geezer with chutzpah. Too bad just about everyone else has to play second string, including the famous Ms. Roberts who appears early on, vanishes for the entire middle of the film, and re-emerges in one very funny sequence in which shes called to on to impersonate ... lets just say, someone very famous.
The plot is far too convoluted to do justice to here, but it leads to some interesting places, such as the Italianate villa of the vain but talented superthief Francois Toulour (French star Vincent Cassel) who provides the films biggest wow moment in an intricately choreographed dance in a museum hall as he evades the museums roaming laser sensors. When the film hits DVD, this will be the one lemee-see-that-again scene.
Will "Oceans Twelve" yield "Oceans Thirteen"? Its doubtful, considering the scheduling nightmares of getting so many A-listers in the same room together. But with Bond creaking toward irrelevance, Hollywood could use a new delivery system for purely distilled cool-glam entertainment. The "Oceans" films provide a pretty hard-to-top blueprint.
Contact Wallace Baine at email@example.com.If You Go
WHAT: Oceans Twelve.
RATING: PG-13: Some profanity.
WHERE: Santa Cruz 9, 460-2599; Scotts Valley Cinemas, 438-3260; Skyview Drive-In, 475-3405; Aptos Twin, 688-6541; Green Valley Cinemas, 761-8200.
LENGTH: Two hours, 10 minutes.