Ocean's Twelve Review
Ocean’s Eleven did something extremely rare, and rather commendable, in the world of Hollywood - it was a remake of a film that wasn’t particularly good. The original was certainly a fun story, with a lot of potential, but it was squandered and all you were left with was a movie hanging it’s success on the presence of the Rat Pack. Therefore remaking it didn’t ruffle a whole lot of feathers, there wasn’t a huge fan base to upset, and for the first time in recent memory - with the help of a stellar cast - people seemed to universally be looking forward to the (normally contemptible) Hollywood remake. Unfortunately though, it doesn’t seem that such clever thinking can last, as everyone involved has jumped straight into the biggest Hollywood pitfall of them all - the lazy sequel.
Three years have gone by and Danny Ocean (George Clooney) and his crew have been having a lot of fun with Terry Benedict’s (Andy Garcia) money. Eleven million dollars a piece is pretty hard to squander, but naturally they’ve all been trying their best. Sadly, nothing lasts forever, and their happy existences are blown apart when Mr. Benedict and his goons come knocking on all their doors. For some reason though, the famous vindictive streak he usually would have great pleasure employing on people tat have wronged him to such a degree is absent, at least for two weeks. That’s how long Ocean’s Eleven have to come up with the money owed - plus a pretty hefty slice of interest - or Terry’s going to really, really make them regret ever stepping foot in the Bellagio. Of course this leaves them with only one choice, team up again to steal their way to the target, and as they just became the best known thieves in North America I guess they’re just going to have to jet off to Europe instead.
First things first, Ocean’s Twelve is far from a bad movie, the script is often funny, the direction is smooth, and none of the actors seem aggrieved to be back - quite the opposite in fact, they all seem to be having a fantastic time - which, unfortunately, is the problem. It’s hard to forget all the interviews that took place after the release of the first film extolling the virtues of working with this cast, everyone here has become firm friends and making the film was fantastic fun. And that seems like the only reason they’ve returned. The first time around Soderberg managed to entice a great cast - including a number of friends - to work for very little money, because the project was so exceptional. This time around it feels like someone has bashed together a script just to give them all an excuse to do it again.
Absolutely the most important part of any heist movie is the heist itself, and Ocean’s Eleven had an absolute stunner, which was a joy to watch unfolding. The jobs in Ocean’s Twelve however, are nothing but lazy. None of the big reveals are revelatory, there isn’t an ounce of surprise in any of the, but they’re all overloaded with incredulity, and you’ll be more stunned the filmmakers thought they could actually feed an audience this rubbish and have them love it the way they did the first film that wowed by the spectacle. To give an example, one of the items Ocean’s Twelve (so named because Tess (Julia Roberts) is eventually forced to play a role) is tasked with stealing is protected by a network of randomly moving laser beams. They scan - perfectly randomly - around the room, they could be pointing at any surface at any time, so how are they meant to find a route through? Now I hate to be pedantic, but, how exactly would such a contraption know if one of the beams had been broken? It matters not how, or even if, anyone can manage to find a route through, because the damn thing couldn’t work anyway, so any solution just isn’t going to be clever. It’s poorly thought out details like this that turn the heists of Ocean’s Twelve into nothing more than somewhat distracting fluff, rather than the clever fun of the Bellagio job.
The real shame of it is, aside from the plot, Ocean’s Twelve is just as good a film as the original. The cast spark off each other just as well as they did before, and there are just as many great comedic moments. Thankfully the jokes don’t often rely on the successes of the first film - though a few obligatory cameos are made for an easy laugh (step forward Topher Grace) - but these are nicely balanced with a slew of famous faces filling smaller roles this time around, with even Eddie Izzard managing to both put in a good performance and be funny. Between this and his turn in The Cat’s Meow, you never know, but he might just be (finally) learning how to act. The plot drags the crew all around Europe’s nicest holiday destinations - rumour has it locations were decided on by the proximity of the stars holiday homes, as they partied their way across the continent looking nothing like they were making a movie - but this does bring us some stunning scenery, making a backdrop that manages to rival the spectacle of Las Vegas. Soderberg also has no trouble turning his cool cast and cool locations into a cooly directed film, with many a fancy directing and editing trick making the film buzz at every turn, even if it does feel like papering over the cracks, at least he’s managed a pretty paper.
Ocean’s Eleven was a tough act to follow, a very tough one, as it succeeded on pretty much all fronts. You could argue that Ocean’s Twelve fails on only one of them, but plot is a pretty major point to fail on, and this is not only one step too far towards ridiculous, but a fair number of steps too far away from the slick, energetic, clever thievery that stopped the original from being little more than a slick distraction. Which is exactly what Ocean’s Twelve is.
The Picture and Sound
The slick movie is packaged by Warner Brothers in an equally slick looking DVD, and - if I were really trying to find the silver lining - both the picture and sound seem to have benefitted from the lack of extras on the disc. The image is great, and whilst the bright lights of Vegas are left far behind the European vistas are just as important - and often difficult - to represent on DVD, so the smooth image free from nasty compression artifacts - though a level of grain inherent to the film stock is present - is most appreciated. The soundtrack echoes the last by being another fun, frolicking, jazzy number from David Holmes, and while it lacks an Elvis inspired chart-topping remix, it’s just as enticing, so it’s great to hear it fill your living room so well on this Dolby Digital 5.1 track. Occasionally it seemed to go a little to far and make the dialogue somewhat difficult to follow, but such occasions were rare, and it is an overall very enjoyable listening experience.
If I didn’t know better I’d say Ocean’s Twelve had pulled of another European heist, because this disc is as bare as can be - the theatrical trailer sits alone in the special features menu - but sadly this appears to be a situation mirrored on the American disc too. The first movie didn’t exactly come stacked on DVD, but at least some effort was made with the commentaries, but there's nothing here to tempt people wary about the movie.
Ocean’s Twelve is a movie that should have been better, all the elements were in place after the original was such a success, everyone wanted to return and Warner Brothers were more than happy to foot the bill after the huge returns made on the first outing. All that was needed was another good script, but that was sidestepped for a merely adequate one, leaving us with diverting fluff that doesn’t live up to the high standards laid down with Ocean’s Eleven. And while it made enough money to justify (in the bean counters mind’s at least) Ocean’s Thirteen, I have to say I wouldn’t get my hopes up at all. Sadly Warner Brothers have seen fit to leave this film to stand alone on DVD, and really, it isn’t strong enough to do that. If you want it in your collection I’d advise waiting, as this will be in the sales before you know it.