Ocean’s Eleven was one of my favorite movies of 2001: great cast of actors and an excellent director (Steven Soderbergh) making an easy, fluffy movie and obviously having a ball doing it. The witty interplay between the characters and the slickly-executed heist succeeded largely because the A-list stars were obviously having fun making the movie. The audience felt more like they were privy to a Hollywood party that happened to result in a movie than like they were watching a crassly cobbled-together clunker driven by some studio’s marketing department.
The same can’t be said, however, for its sequel, Ocean’s Twelve. While O12 would seem to have all of the compenents of the original in place, it’s missing one crucial part: the fun.
I think it should be writ down as Tinseltown Law that George Clooney and Brad Pitt should be required to make a movie together every couple of years. Both Clooney and Pitt are pretty boys who really wish they weren’t; neither of them takes themselves all that seriously; both, honestly, are among my favorite actors. Their chemistry together was one easily of the best parts of Ocean’s Eleven…so, of course, they have very few scenes together in the sequel. Clooney might have top billing again, but the importance of his Danny Ocean has been pushed slightly off to the side in favor of Pitt’s Rusty Ryan. That alone isn’t a problem; Rusty’s actually a more intriguing character than Danny.
|Ocean’s Twelve (2004)
The problem’s more with the members of the infamous eleven not named Rusty or Danny…they’re largely non-existent. It felt like the actors were each under contract requiring them to come back for a sequel, but the producers weren’t required to do anything interesting with them. Bernie Mac spends almost half the movie in jail–if it weren’t for a cutaway to him late in the game I’d have forgotten he was even part of the story. Don Cheadle gets to do almost nothing; same with Elliott Gould and Carl Reiner. Casey Affleck and Scott Caan might as well not even have been in the movie (though their absence might have made the movie better). Julia Roberts has a limited part, likely in no small part because of her real-life pregnancy, but she at least gets to tweak her public image some.
The script for O12 was reworked from an earlier, unrelated script that Warner Brothers asked screeenwriter George Nolfi to refashion for the O11 characters, and it shows: the movie feels very much like the characters from the original were shoved into a story that didn’t concern them. The plot involving master thief “The Night Fox” (Vincent Cassel) and his pursuit by Interpol (excuse me, “Europol”) detective Isabel Lahiri (Catherine Zeta-Jones) feels entirely separate from the goings-on of the rest of the crew, though there are efforts made to connect the storylines. Nolfi and Soderbergh didn’t use quite enough stitching between the two storylines, however, and the resulting jumble doesn’t hold together well.
I don’t mean for all of this criticism to imply that Ocean’s Twelve is worthless–while the movie doesn’t compare well with the original, it’s still reasonably entertaining and has some funny moments: Roberts’ awkward situation toward the end of the movie; Topher Grace’s repeat cameo, once again playing a not-so-flattering version of himself, as well as the other suprise celebrity cameos; Cassel’s performace as the extremely confident and slightly skeevy “Night Fox” (man, how does he move like that?); and Pitt and Clooney both bring the same charm they brought to the first film. Not a bad way to spend two hours, but it felt not unlike visiting old friends you haven’t seen in awhile and discovering you just don’t enjoy their company as much as you used to.