December 16, 2004

Movie Review: Ocean's 12

ell, I guess the big question is how this stands up to the first film, and the answer is pretty good. It is not as nearly complete a film as the first, and that is what holds it back from surpassing the original, but as pure cinema fun it delivers!

The feel of this film is a lot different than the prior outing. This time around it was like a bunch of friends just got together and decided to through a movie together, where the plot acts as a flimsy excuse to get them all back together again. And indeed, that seems to be how it went down. The entire cast reportedly had such a good time making the first film, that they all wanted to get together and do it again. The only stipulation being that the budget be the same as Ocean's 11.

The plot is simple enough, somehow Terry Benedict, the "victim" from the prior film, has found out where Ocean's 11 are all hiding. He approaches them and informs each of them that they have two weeks to pay back the money stolen in the first film, plus interest. The plot then careens along a path which puts the team in various sorts of trouble, and also serves as a way to set a wildly preposterous robbery plan into motion. I don't really want to delve too deeply into the plot, or really at all, because despite the absolutely ridiculous plot there are a lot of little twists and in-jokes along the way which would not be nearly as entertaining if I gave them away here.

As I sat back watched, I couldn't help but think about how silly the plot really was. Think about it, if you stole millions of dollars from someone and he asked for it back, what would you do? Go to Europe to steal more to give him? I bet that you could think of a few simpler ways of dealing with that sort of problem. At the same time, I really didn't care, I was having too much fun watching these stars work their trade and make a highly entertaining caper film that was bordering on being a satire of the genre.

This mass of stars, including the non A-listers of the cast, just worked so well together. We get glimpses of what they've been up to in the three years since the casino heist. We see how they are all brought back together, and how they manage to pull together a plan despite the bickering and in-fighting, as well as dealing with unexpected outside influences.

This is an example of style over substance, where the plot and everything that happens is secondary to delivering a gorgeous looking film that keeps moving to hide the plot holes. Clooney's Danny Ocean, the natural leader, flawed but still in control. Brad Pitt's Rusty, brilliant, smooth, but still has trouble with the ladies. Matt Damon's Linus, still trying to prove himself. Don Cheadle, calm, cool, always in control. The list goes on. If you've seen the first film, you have an idea of what to expect, just amp up the personalities, tone down the plot, sit back and enjoy the ride.

That said, this is clearly not a perfect film. Plot issues aside there are still some problems. The biggest thing that bugged me throughout the film was the music. The music is good, don't get me wrong, but the mix is awful. The volume levels are all over the place, going up and down within the same take to make room for dialogue. I found the volume changes very distracting and annoying, there really was no need for it. A minor quibble, I know, but it bugged me.

Bottomline. This is a wonderful film. The abundance of style wins out over the shallowness of plot. I was left kind of hoping there is a third outing, anything to bring this cast back together. You can clearly tell they were having fun making this film, it translated to an ease onscreen unlike any film in recent memory. Definitely worth checking out.

Highly Recommended.


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