Ocean's Twelve

Reviewed By Robert Flaxman
Posted 06/21/05 19:54:20

"Too many boats on the Ocean."
2 stars (Pretty Crappy)

Itís always refreshing when movies with open endings leave them that way. An audience is perfectly capable of coming up with their own next chapters if they so choose, and so few sequels are comparable to the original films that it doesnít seem worth the trouble. Of course, money talks in Hollywood, and so Oceanís Eleven, which made $450 million worldwide three years ago, saw its cast and crew reunite for a sequel Ė and oh boy, should they ever have skipped it.

Terry Benedict (Andy Garcia), whose casinos were robbed in the first film, has just received a tip that definitively connects each member of Danny Ocean (George Clooney)ís gang to the heist. He insists they pay the money back, with interest. Too high-profile to run a job in the States, the gang makes its way to Amsterdam on the advice of Rusty (Brad Pitt), only to find that his ex-girlfriend, an INTERPOL agent named Isabel (Catherine Zeta-Jones), is also there and on to them.

Aside from a rather dire sequence in which we are forced to see every single member of the gang receive Benedictís message as though someone were calling roll, Oceanís Twelve starts promisingly enough. Just like the first movie, the gang is scouting possible heists and making wisecracks. So far, so good.

As soon as they attempt their first job only to find they have been beaten there by a master thief named the Night Fox (Vincent Cassel), however, things begin to fall apart under the weight of a dozen plot twists. Soderbergh and writer George Nolfi pull things in several different directions at once before piling one deus ex machina on top of another at the end of the film, evidently failing to realize that mysteries really arenít fun when their endings canít possibly be guessed.

The first film was star friends having fun in a movie setting. For this one it just seems like they cared about hanging out, and actually shooting a film was secondary. None of the characters are as fun as they are in the first film Ė Ted Griffinís dialogue is sorely missed, as Nolfiís script just feels like a pale imitation. It has its moments, but by and large it seems to be trying way too hard to be clever and mysterious, failing on both counts.

At one point there is a subplot in which the character of Tess, played by Julia Roberts, is called upon to provide a distraction by Ė get ready for this one Ė pretending to be Julia Roberts. It is almost unfathomably stupid. Did Soderbergh think he was doing a combined sequel to both Oceanís Eleven and the Hollywood-meta-film Full Frontal? Worse still, characters then comment on how Roberts doesnít look that much like herself, and Bruce Willis has a cameo that calls for everyone to tell him how they knew his character in The Sixth Sense was actually dead. With a setup like this, itís amazing that no one congratulated Roberts on her great performance in Oceanís Eleven. I guess causing a rip in the fabric of space-time was just one step farther than Soderbergh was willing to take that device.

Thatís just one of the many plot twists, all of which build up for most of the film before collapsing in a heap with only a few minutes to go. The film ends up as a parlor trick Ė at first entertaining, then tiresome when it tries too hard, and finally irritating when you realize that a lot of what youíve seen was just smoke and mirrors. The first film had the latter problem to a very slight degree, but its execution and explanations were fun enough to get it off the hook. Itís much easier to suspend disbelief when youíre having fun; when Oceanís Twelve loses that, fairly early on, it exposes the plot to an analysis under which it crumbles.

For example, every character is impossibly well-connected and well-informed, to the point that it just becomes ridiculous Ė and whatís more, weíre expected to take every last bit of unlikely knowledge on faith. No thanks. Iíd prefer a movie that had enough brains to explain itself.

Barely trying at all and yet simultaneously trying way too hard, Oceanís Twelve is no match for its predecessor, try though it might to look and sound the same. With a plot thatís too convoluted by half and no fun to unravel, all weíre left with is some empty style and a bunch of inside jokes. Itís sure to be a big hit at Soderberghís next Christmas party, but thereís no real reason for anyone else to bother.

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