OCEAN'S TWELVE. With George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Julia Roberts, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Matt Damon, Don Cheadle, Bernie Mac. Director: Steven Soderbergh (2:10). PG-13: Language.
During the filming of the pleasing, gossamer heist movie "Ocean's Twelve," the paparazzi snapped the cast living it up on a speedboat near George Clooney's Lake Como villa. Those photos tell you everything you need to know about this laid-back sequel to "Ocean's Eleven" - easy on the eyes, easy on the brain.
Which doesn't mean it's chopped liver. How many movies recapture the blithe spirit of Frank Sinatra and his Rat Pack, plus a sense of old-school star glamour?
In this more convoluted sequel, again directed by Steven Soderbergh, debonair thief Danny Ocean (Clooney) rounds up that ol' gang of his for another big score - even though by all rights he should be sunning himself on a deck chair somewhere.
The lineup includes Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Don Cheadle, Bernie Mac, Casey Affleck, Scott Caan, Carl Reiner, Eddie Jemison, Elliott Gould and Shaobo Qin. Plus there's Vincent Cassel as a rival thief who executes a security-laser ballet in a nod to Catherine Zeta-Jones in "Entrapment."
Zeta-Jones herself is new to the cast as a humorless Europol agent with a killer wardrobe and a particular interest in one of Ocean's 12.
The new member promised by the title, however, is Tess (Julia Roberts), taking a second stab at marriage to Danny. They are "retired," like the Incredibles, but Danny gets right back in business, and Tess is called in for an 11th-hour save.
That late sequence is the movie's most successful gambit, a fusion of real and reel life that is very Rat Pack: The stars really are the friends they play, and we're all invited to bask in the glow.
This time, the score is in Europe, and there's just a teeny deadline problem - the Las Vegas casino magnate (Andy Garcia) who was ripped off in the last installment wants it all back in two weeks, plus interest. The gang tries targets in various cities, then settles on a Faberge egg in Rome.
Pitt gets the lion's share of the film, which sidelines some teammates to the benches. Most of them have little to do, and Damon's nose-picker of a character is no thrill.
But the little insider jokes and star cameos - including Bruce Willis as himself - are worth the trouble.
When Soderbergh set out three years ago to recapture the camaraderie of the Rat Packers, who made movies together as casually as if they were bar-hopping, he succeeded beyond expectations. These new "Ocean's" movies are relaxed, infectious fun, even if the novelty has worn off.
Whatever substance there is of "Ocean's Twelve" fades faster than invisible ink. But it's not the kind of movie you watch for plot details. It's really about spending two hours on that Lake Como speedboat, relaxing with pals.
Originally published on December 9, 2004