Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Ocean's Thirteen

The Plot Thickens....

"Oceans Eleven" was an enjoyable, breezy updating of a not-very-good "Rat Pack" movie with a nicely eclectic cast from many walks of the entertainment industry. It was a lark, with no real sense of any danger or risk. It just seemed like director Steve Soderbergh and star George Clooney (partners in the production company, Section 8)were getting free rein of Vegas and dragging along a bunch of pals along with them.

"Oceans Twelve" showed signs of fatigue. Instead of Vegas, it was filmed in Europe. The large majority of the cast was arranged to "rot in jail" for most of its running time, while Matt Damon and Julia Roberts carried the weight of the plot, storyline and ad-libbed dialogue to sometimes excruciating effect (Okay, so Roberts played Tess Ocean, the wife of George Clooney's character, and when he gets way-laid, she flies to Europe where she's recruited to pass herself off as...Julia Roberts, and hilarity ensues when *gasp* Bruce Willis "cameos in" to complicate matters!!) Not much worthwhile there, but Clooney got to write off his Lake Como estate, so I guess that's something.

So, now it's the third go-'round, the unlucky "13" and to "play it safe" and "cover all bets," the crew goes back to Vegas to avenge another hoodwinking of deep-pockets gang member Reuben (Elliott Gould) by another puffed-ego Vegas properties owner, one Willie Bank, played by Al Pacino on cruise control. Once again, it's a con of "Mission: Impossible" proportions involving false identities and acoutrements, loaded dice, coins and roulette balls and the use of not one, but two large tunnelers (that were used to dig the Chunnel we're told) to carry out the various schemes. While it's true you have to spend money to make money this movie takes it to new extremes. Along the way there are pleasant cameos by Julian Sands and Eddie Izzard (Roberts and Catherine Zeta-Jones' absences are explained away quickly--"it's not their fight"), Vincent Cassel (from "12") and even Exec. Producer Jerry Weintraub. Everything's in place--everybody's a wise-acre, Clooney makers a tuxedo look like casual wear, Pitt's wardrobe is still horrendous, and they even manage to work in Andy Garcia's rival casino owner in on the plot--though fortunately, they don't turn him into a suddenly reformed "good guy." Because Pacino's on board, there's a couple sneaky "Godfather" references in the dialog--one to Pacino's face, but like most of the in-jokes (right down to the last lines) they're so "inside" that they'll probably go over a large portion of heads. But despite these minute differences, it's the first movie all over again--like "Return of the Jedi," the third in the "Star Wars" series and "Last Crusade," in the "Indiana Jones" cycle--but as with those films, the ingredients making up "Ocean's 13" have been left out to curdle a bit. It's fun and all, with a couple of laugh-out-loud moments involving Oprah Winfrey, and Soderbergh directed, shot and edited the thing himself, but is it too much to ask for something a bit more original? One gets the impression that if not for the perks to cast and crew, they would have done well to have left the table and cashed out a little earlier.

"Ocean's 13" is a cable watcher for a rainy Sunday afternoon

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