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Ocean's Eight Movie Review

Ocean's Eight (2018) movie poster Ocean's Eight

Theatrical Release: June 8, 2018 / Running Time: 105 Minutes / Rating: PG-13

Director: Gary Ross / Writers: Gary Ross (story & screenplay); Olivia Milch (screenplay); George Clayton Johnson, Jack Golden Russell (characters)

Cast: Sandra Bullock (Debbie Ocean), Cate Blanchett (Lou), Anne Hathaway (Daphne Kluger), Mindy Kaling (Amita), Sarah Paulson (Tammy), Awkwafina (Constance), Rihanna (Nine Ball), Helenea Bonham Carter (Rose Weil), Richard Armitage (Claude Becker), James Corden (John Frazier), Dakota Fanning (Penelope Stern), Damian Young (David Welch), Elliott Gould (Reuben Tishkoff), Marlo Thomas (Rene), Dana Ivey (Diana), Mary Louise Wilson (Marlene), Elizabeth Ashley (Ethel) / Uncredited: Shaobo Qin (The Amazing Yen), Anna Wintour (Herself), Heidi Klum (Herself)


Released in December 2001, three months after 9/11, Steven Soderbergh's Ocean's Eleven was not just something that felt right at a time when it felt good to be able to laugh again. The heist caper was the rare remake that improved upon an original film, in this case a 1960 Rat Pack musical that was never terribly well-known or highly regarded.
It was also about as close to flawless entertainment as we find in cinema, a delightful blend of style and substance that perfectly married a gifted filmmaker, perhaps the most charismatic and star-studded cast ever assembled, and clever, diverting, fun material. It ranks eighth on my list of the best movies of the first decade of the 2000s and it might well eclipse the other seven in rewatchability.

And yet, no one has been clamoring for more. The series ran its course as a trilogy, marred by 2004's disappointing Ocean's Twelve and then redeemed by 2007's enjoyable albeit familiar Ocean's Thirteen, both also directed by Soderbergh and featuring the same likable cast.

After just over a decade of dormancy, the franchise is now revived by Ocean's Eight, which will probably primarily be known as "the one with women." Two summers after Ghostbusters got the female reboot treatment from Paul Feig to mixed reactions, we get a new version of the thieving hijinks with recent Oscar winners Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett, and Anne Hathaway taking over from the likes of George Clooney, Brad Pitt, and Matt Damon.

In "Ocean's Eight", Debbie Ocean (Sandra Bullock) and Lou (Cate Blanchett) lead a team of eight women in an attempt to steal a $150 million diamond necklace from the Met Gala.

Bullock plays Debbie Ocean, who finds herself in a predicament similar to where her brother Danny (Clooney, who sadly does not appear here) began the first film: expressing remorse before a parole board in prison. Like Danny, an allegedly reformed Debbie gets released...and immediately makes plans to get back to doing what she does best: stealing stuff. Debbie reconnects with Lou (Blanchett), her partner in crime and maybe more (the film doesn't really define love interests) and reveals her idea to rob New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art of the Toussaint, a diamond necklace valued at $150 million.

Of course, Debbie and Lou assemble a team of individuals with specialized skills: tech guru Nine Ball (Rihanna), pickpocket Constance (Awkwafina), jewelry maker Amita (Mindy Kaling), and seasoned thief/suburban mom Tammy (Sarah Paulson). The plan hinges on over-the-hill Irish fashion designer Rose Weil (Helena Bonham Carter) convincing the museum's curators to allow actress/celebrity icon Daphne Kluger (Hathaway) to wear the priceless six-pound necklace at the star-studded Met Gala.

The criminal plot doesn't seem nearly as elaborate as Danny's scheme to simultaneously rob three Las Vegas casinos through their joint vault. Or perhaps it just feels that way because director Gary Ross, credited alone with story, and his novice fellow screenwriter Olivia Milch don't hide the specifics, keep us guessing, or flesh out the heist. As you can imagine, the heist plays out with some disguise and acting, security camera hacking, and an unknowing central participant (necklace-wearer Kluger).

Insurance fraud investigator John Frazier (James Corden) questions celebrity icon Daphne Kluger (Anne Hathaway) about the priceless diamond necklace that disappeared after she wore it.

Like the aforementioned Ghostbusters, Eight is watchable at best and doesn't really do anything bad enough to besmirch the good name of the franchise, but it's certainly on a completely different -- and lower -- level than the source property, which here is clearly Soderbergh's remake and not the actual Rat Pack original. The principal blame can't lie on the cast, which is certainly talented if less comedically
experienced than Clooney and company were even back at the turn of the century. No, the biggest problem is that Eight is lacking in two things we found in abundance in Eleven: style and fun.

Ross, who has been writing movies for thirty years (starting with the Tom Hanks vehicle Big) and directing for twenty (starting with Pleasantville) is no Steven Soderbergh (who is credited as a producer here). Ross brought some flair and artistic credibility to the first of four Hunger Games films. But he lacks the technical wizardry and general passion that is so integral to Soderbergh's sleight of hand. This mostly inert, rarely funny new take is as close to a Freeform (as in the former ABC Family) original movie as it is to Soderbergh's Ocean. Not visually or in terms of personnel, but just in terms of the narrative and cinematicness, or lack thereof. Even the inevitable effort to link this to the Soderbergh trilogy is done with a minimum of imagination and talent. A couple of late stage chuckles supplied by James Corden can't make us forget bits that aren't even big enough to declare falling flat.

Admittedly, I first saw Soderbergh's first Ocean's as a teenager and was much easier to impress then, having seen far fewer movies. But there was something special that has still been there on repeat viewings. Eight is not something I look forward to ever seeing again or something that lends to a sequel in any fashion, despite the title seemingly leaving room for two such things.

Related Reviews:
Now in Theaters: Life of the Party Tully Solo: A Star Wars Story Avengers: Infinity War Deadpool 2
Ocean's Thirteen Logan Lucky Ghostbusters (2016) American Hustle
Directed by Gary Ross: The Hunger Games | Written by Gary Ross: Big
Sandra Bullock: Our Brand Is Crisis The Proposal Gravity | Anne Hathaway: The Intern The Princess Diaries: 2-Movie Collection Get Smart
Cate Blanchett: The Monuments Men | Rihanna: Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets

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Reviewed June 6, 2018.

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