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December 9, 2004

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Tedious 'Twelve'
Waterlogged sequel spends too much time preening

Bill Muller
The Arizona Republic
Dec. 10, 2004 12:00 AM

Ocean's Twelve is a better press conference than a movie.

The film enlists a rare concentration of star power - George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Julia Roberts, Catherine Zeta-Jones, and Matt Damon - but director Steven Soderbergh is unable to elevate it beyond novelty status. If the holiday movie season is a feast, Ocean's Twelve is the ornate centerpiece, pleasing to the eye but hardly nourishing.

This movie is a sequel to a remake (of the Rat Pack movie Ocean's Eleven), so originality isn't exactly the order of the day.

Twelve is too long and slow moving, although it does include snappy dialogue between the main characters, Danny Ocean (Clooney), Rusty Ryan (Pitt) and Linus Caldwell (Damon). Clooney and Pitt play movie versions of themselves, but Damon appears to be trying to make something of his character.

Zeta-Jones joins the cast as an international cop who once dated Rusty before she realized he was a big crook. Rusty still longs for her, but she's determined to arrest him and his associates, who also face competition from a famous French thief (Vincent Cassel).

The actors look like they had fun making the movie, but that doesn't make it fun to watch. Ocean's Twelve is a self-obsessed affair that stinks of hubris, in which we're supposed to glory in the very notion that these beautiful people would stoop to spend two hours with us.

Even the various heists lose appeal, because Soderbergh curiously decides to show most of them in flashback, which makes it difficult to build any suspense. And although he reconstructs the cast from the last film, Bernie Mac, Carl Reiner and some others have limited roles.

Soderbergh, who established a lot of credibility with sex, lies and videotape, Erin Brockovich and Traffic, is frittering it away by basking in his own celebrity, or at least basking in the glow of his celebrity friends. I don't care how many interviews the stars do at producer Jerry Weintraub's house, the movie is a whole lot of nothing.

Very little happens in Ocean's Twelve, which is built around the notion that the casino owner who was robbed in the first movie (Andy Garcia) wants his money back, forcing the gang to return to action. Unable to work in the United States (like the movie's cast, they're just too "hot"), the group heads to Europe to conduct highly elaborate rip-offs, in which the equipment required to pull the job probably costs more than the loot.

The plot is a murky mess, so much so that you'll find yourself trying to unwind it long after the film is over. It's hardly worth the trouble. The final twist is a cheat. There's hardly anything in the movie to hint that it's coming.

Roberts, who again appears in an extended cameo, also is involved in the movie's principal act of self-aggrandizement and self-reverence. I don't want to give it away - it's the one surprise in the movie - but it's the kind of inside baseball that Soderbergh should steer clear of in the future.

The director is guilty of a People magazine approach to filmmaking, in which just the sights of big stars are supposed to be enough to carry the day. We know all these people look good together, but a photo shoot does not a movie make.

In This Is Spinal Tap, lead guitarist Nigel Tufnel bragged about his amplifier, saying, "This one goes to 11."

Ocean's should have stopped there as well.

Reach Muller at (602) 444-8651.

Enlarge Image
Warner Bros.
George Clooney, from left, Eddie Jemison, Bernie Mac, Elliott Gould, Scott Caan, Carl Reiner, Shaobo Qin, Brad Pitt, Casey Affleck, Don Cheadle and Matt Damon in Ocean's Twelve.
'Ocean's Twelve'

* *

DIRECTOR: Steven Soderbergh.

CAST: George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Julia Roberts.

RATING: PG-13, for language.

Great ***** Good ****
Fair *** Bad **Bomb *
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