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IN SHORT: Buy popcorn. [Rated PG-13 for some language and sexual content. 120 minutes]
Ask a member of the predominant moviegoing demographic what the "rat pack" was and the answer you'll probably get will be something along the lines of "a reason to call the exterminator?" As for those of you who can put the names Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Joey Bishop and Peter Lawford Angie Dickinson) in their proper places, you are reminded that we don't make comparisons to Source Material. Besides, we were still in diapers when the original Ocean's 11 was filmed and, more to the point, a good heist is a good heist . . .
. . . and while Ocean's 11 isn't a really a traditional "heist," any film with a cast of A-listers like the one's in this flick needs a story just slightly thicker than one-ply to make it all work. 95% of the stars and production mavens involved planted down with our Paul Fischer for a rare free-for-all CrankyCritic StarTalk with producer Jerry Weintraub, director Steve Soderbergh and stars Brad Pitt, George Clooney, Julia Roberts, Don Cheadle, Matt Damon and Andy "I always get the last word" Garcia. Click for all the dirt.
When push comes to shove, the important question is: do all the "name" stars make the most of their "moments in the sun" so that you don't mind shelling out the wad o' cash you'll be out once the golden gloppy stuff goes all over the pre-popped corn? For the most part, yes. Writer Ted Griffin and director Steven Soderbergh have delivered a slick, jazz tinged product that rolls over those pleasure points in your brain like silk. In fact, of all the stars in the cast, the only one who doesn't look like she's having any fun -- you figure it out -- has that unhappiness built into her character description. Julia Roberts' presence adds the only hint of subplot to what otherwise would have been a grade B Mission: Impossible story, albeit one where the participants have personality.
Danny Ocean (George Clooney) is a thief who has spent his time in the New Jersey State Penitentiary system thinking big. Rusty Ryan (Brad Pitt) is the partner who helps him flesh out his brainstorm -- the simultaneous robbery of three, count 'em three, Las Vegas casinos, The Bellagio, the Mirage and the MGM Grand. All three share the same vaults, 200 feet below the Vegas strip. All three are owned by Terry Benedict (Andy Garcia), who just happens to be intimately involved with a fine lady named Tess Ocean (Julia Roberts).
Ryan calls Ocean on that little detail immediately. Once he's convinced that the target is the approximately $160 cash millions sitting in the vault (and not the girl), the plan moves into stage two: finance the operation. To do that, our core cons have no qualms hitting up the one man in Vegas who hates Terry Benedict with a passion. His name is Reuben Tishkoff (Elliot Gould) and he was just screwed out of a multimillion dollar hotel casino deal by the competitor with better suits and less jewelry.
The remaining members of the team include decoys Frank Catton (Bernie Mac) and Saul Bloom (Carl Reiner), Cockney safecracker Basher Tarr (Don Cheadle), a limber limbed inside "greaseman" (Shaobo Qin) and supporting kidlets Linus Caldwell (Matt Damon), Livingston Dell (Eddie Jemison) and tech geeks Virgil Malloy (Casey Affleck) and his brother Turk (Scott Caan). Do the math and you get the "11," all of whom must defeat every laser beam and motion detector (and a couple of dozen more security devices) known to man.
What follows is so elaborate and so fast paced that it doesn't make a bit of sense, until it's all explained to you at the very end of the film. When that time comes, you'll realize that you weren't sitting through a "heist" at all. An enjoyable, lightweight flick, yes, made even more palatable by a couple of tons of star power. For all the star power among the younger actors on this team, old hands Elliot Gould and Carl Reiner, especially Reiner, steal the show.
Take a date. You know you will.
On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Nine Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Ocean's 11, he would have paid . . .
dateflick level. [and because we've always been an underdog, we'll note with sadness that the studio which released Ocean's 11 had to deep six a superior robbery flick, aptly titled Heist, about a month ago. We understand marketing: one star (Gene Hackman) and a name writer/director (David Mamet) versus half a dozen A-listers and a heavily trafficked Oscar recipient director will fail to get the bucks every time]. You'll enjoy Ocean's 11. We did, despite the inevitable crush of pretentious emotionally depressing Oscar wannabees, that dampen our usual jovial spirits.
Without that emotionally dampening crunch, we still would have liked Ocean's 11, but it's a popcorn flick that stands out because the entire year has been filled with films that have been barely watchable.
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