The modern master criminals of Ocean’s Eleven are back for more in the third most anticipated sequel of the year. Come on, we were all far more excited about Shrek 2 and Spiderman 2 right? This time around “twelve is the new eleven”. I was never very good at that new math, but it still makes for a clever tag line, and Ocean’s Twelve makes for a clever movie to match, even if it stumbles a bit walking in the large shoes of its highly successful predecessor.
It’s been three years since Billy Ocean (George Clooney) and his mastermind crew pillaged Terry Benedict’s (Andy Garcia) casino vault. Most of the group has done its best to disappear into society and lead normal lives, quietly squandering their stolen millions. Despite their best efforts to stay hidden, Benedict has somehow finally caught up with the eleven men who robbed him blind, and he’s looking for more than an apology. In a suspiciously gracious move, Benedict gives the gang two weeks to come up with the cash they owe him. Deciding it’s too dangerous to try and raise funds at home, the crew heads to Europe to scrape together the money they need to cover their assets.
During their first theft job abroad, the boys cross paths with Europe’s premier thief, a criminal genius known only as the Night Fox. As it turns out, he was the one who ratted them out to Terry Benedict. He wants a chance to go head to head with the American legends, and was willing to break the number one rule of honor among thieves to do it. In return, he offers to pay their debt to Benedict if they accept his challenge and prove that they are better thieves than he. All they have to do is steal the prized (and heavily guarded) Coronation Faberge Egg before he does.
To complicate matters, the Europol Agent in charge of safe-guarding the Egg is one Isabel Lahiri (Catherine Zeta-Jones) who just also happens to be an old flame of Rusty Ryan (Brad Pitt). Their conflicted cop-and-robber relationship heats things up for the guys, making an already difficult heist nearly impossible. With Benedict’s lethal deadline looming, the infamous Ocean’s Eleven is running out of time.
Sequels are tricky things, but even the usually capable Soderbergh, with his unique flair for witty storytelling, flounders a bit before getting his movie headed in the right direction. Grainy filters and a slow pace with monotonous dialogue leave the first act of the film feeling more like a dramatic reprise of Traffic than an action/comedy Ocean’s sequel. Things finally start to pick up once the boys get down to doing what they do best, stealing stuff, but the movie never quite achieves that zip that made Ocean’s Eleven a great flick.
Sorely missed is the sharp chemistry between the various members of the group. The comic talents of Elliot Gould, Carl Reiner, Don Cheadle and Bernie Mac are especially underplayed. With most of the story circulating around Pitt, Zeta-Jones and Clooney’s characters, the rest of the gang just doesn’t get as much time to interact as they did before. It’s a shame, too. The moments they do have feel like forced recreations from the first film. You can tell the actors are giving it their best, but the sparkle just isn’t there.
What Ocean’s Twelve lacks in zip and sparkle, it makes up for in good old fashioned fun. Comical situations and surprise cameos from movie stars playing themselves (including one of the most brilliant twists on the idea that I’ve ever seen) keep the movie afloat. Even though most of the cast don’t get the chance to really shine like they did in Eleven, they turn in a commendable ensemble performance that results in a satisfying show. I just hope someone remembers that 13 isn’t such a lucky number before they decide to roll the dice on a third go round.