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The Minneapolis Star Tribune
Danny Ocean (George Clooney), Linus Caldwell (Matt Damon) and Rusty Ryan (Brad Pitt) team up for another three huge heists in the new film
AP Photo/Ralph Nelson, Warner Bros. Pictures
Danny Ocean (George Clooney), Linus Caldwell (Matt Damon) and Rusty Ryan (Brad Pitt) team up for another three huge heists in the new film "Ocean's Twelve."

MOVIE REVIEW: 'Ocean's Twelve' is frustratingly uneven

This story was published Friday, December 10th, 2004

By JEFF STRICKLER, The Minneapolis Star Tribune

(SMW) - Following the highs and lows of "Ocean's Twelve" is enough to produce whiplash. One minute it's a rocket blasting into the stratosphere. The next it has the buoyancy of a brick.

The widely divergent results are an outcome of the filmmakers' scattershot approach to this sequel to the 2001 blockbuster caper comedy. Director Steven Soderbergh and his A-list cast have strung together a rapid-fire series of satiric situations that, as often as not, have nothing to do with one another or the main premise.

They make fun of caper movies, societal mores and even themselves. Some of the bits are hysterical, but others fall flat.

Forget about the plot; the filmmakers certainly have. There is a story of sorts: A master criminal in France challenges Danny Ocean (George Clooney) to a contest to determine which one has the bragging rights to the claim of the world's greatest thief.

The movie gets around to their contest - eventually. But first, there are a lot of other things to attend to, most of which have nothing to do with thievery.

For instance, Basher Tarr (Don Cheadle) has become a record producer. He's bleeping out the profanity in a rap song to get it past FCC censors so it can be played on the radio. As he and an editor work, the movie bleeps out the naughty words they use to discuss the naughty words that they're bleeping out. It's one of the movie's best bits.

On the other side of the ledger, however, Virgil Malloy (Casey Affleck) has become a bad stand-up comic. Alas, he's not bad enough to be humorously bad. He's just bad enough to make his act seem as if it lasts forever.

As the movie opens, Terry Benedict (Andy Garcia), the casino owner ripped off in the first movie, has tracked down Danny and his gang. He gives them two weeks to repay him or he'll kill them.

Most of the money is long gone, of course. So Danny reunites his crew - the 11 from the earlier heist and his wife, Tess (Julia Roberts) - and sets out to steal enough loot to pay off Benedict. But the job goes sour, and Danny knows that their chances of meeting the deadline have become slim and none.

This is the cue for Francois Toulour (French actor Vincent Cassel). Upset that Ocean's fame is overshadowing his among their peers, he makes a bet with Danny: If his crew can pull off a seemingly impossible robbery, Toulour will pay off Benedict and concede that Danny is the better crook.

In addition to Cassel, the other major new member of the cast is Catherine Zeta-Jones as an Interpol detective trying to catch Ocean and Toulour - and doing a bad job on both counts.

The acting is superficial chic. The stars are focused more on appearing hip than in selling their characterizations. Clooney flashes his disarming smile, Brad Pitt sighs, Matt Damon is puppy-dog cute and Zeta-Jones dresses as if she's always on her way to a country-club ball.

Screenwriter George Nolfi ("Timeline") purportedly wrote the first version of the script for John Woo, who planned to make a straight adventure involving just two crooks. Turning it into a comedy and adding all the extra roles for Danny's team resulted in a plot that leapfrogs helter-skelter with precious little logic.

Perhaps to distract us from the holes in the story, Soderbergh takes a busy approach. The members of Danny's team constantly talk over one another. And there's a ton of hand-held photography, with the camera so shaky that there's no question that it's deliberate. (Ever hear of a Steadicam, Steven?)

Does the climax leave the door open for the possibility of an "Ocean's Thirteen"? Need you even ask?

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