December 12, 2004

12 Oceans Short of A Dozen: Jeremiah Lewis Sits Through the Oafishly Bungled Caper, Oceans 12, So You Don't Have To

We steal your admission price and then we get away to do it again!

Ocean's Twelve (2004) Rated PG-13 120 minutes | 2.5 stars out of 5

In the words of a long-dead Frenchman, "Deliver me first from the pain of subjugation and oppression, second from the fear of death, and third from the waste of potential."

Okay, so I lied. I made that quote up. But the third part of it applies most ably to the poor and underwhelming Ocean's Twelve, with a cast so star-studded it makes Tiffany's look like a chocolate shop selling candy rings to school children.

What 2001's Ocean Eleven did nearly flawlessly, Ocean's Twelve stumbles and bungles through painfully, even somewhat dangerously, as plot-thin sequences devolve into silliness (Julia Roberts as the returning character Tess, who is forced to act as Julia Roberts), and characters suffer crushingly weak development (Matt Damon as the son of two thieves, who must learn not just the art and craft, but the professionalism of thievery). While it's a stretch to say that Ocean's Twelve is bad per se, it really is too much to give it any props.

Even the spunky playfulness of director Steven Soderbergh seems stale and uninspired, utilizing weak fresh-out-of-film-school techniques that would make Darren Aranofsky blush, covering for a hopelessly meandering, slow-paced steamship wreck of a script by George Nolfi, whose sole previous credit is the abominable Timeline.

If you thought Ocean's Eleven had a complicated plot, try this on for size:

Given the over-involved plot, it's not hard to see why none of the original characters get any real "play". Pitt has little to do besides eat chips and smile disarmingly as he engages with Zeta-Jones in a pseudo-professional thief versus policewoman battle of the sexes and wills. Clooney is wasted, as his role as planner is reduced to a few flashbacks and a group argument over their name as "Ocean's Eleven".

The other minor characters (played by Scott Caan, Casey Affleck, Bernie Mac, Shaobo Qin, Don Cheadle, Carl Reiner, Eddie Jemison, and Elliot Gould) also lack for development and involvement. Indeed, the entire plot is a sham, a heist of imagination, suspense, excitement, and adrenaline; everything that Ocean's Eleven offered in full has been reduced to a lot of glitter, but not much else.

What's sad about it all is the wasted potential of everything this sequel had to offer. A cast as good (and huge) as this should not have to work with such an assembly of meandering, unimaginative, illogical plotlines. Their talent, as well as the talent of Soderbergh, has been spent on a poor excuse for a story; their characters lack proper motivation, their actions seem fetid and logy, written by rote and performed by routine.

The worst crime of all is that all their work from the first movie is negated by the fact that in between their casino heist and Terry Benedict's ultimatum in the second, they have all become weenies and wimps. In robbing Peter to pay Paul, they essentially undo their reputations as derring-do operators taking down "the Man". By Ocean's Twelve, they're working for the Man. It's depressing, that's all.

For all the hype pre-publicity generated for it (several showings were sold out hours before showtime on Friday night in my town), Ocean's Twelve really is a weak and wasted movie. Its few redeeming qualities are so overwhelmed by its mechanical, energy-less story and illogical schemes that by its end, one is thankful for the release. Ocean's Twelve did succeed in one scheme: it took my six bucks and left me feeling disappointed. It's one con I don't want to fall for again.
(NOTE: Jeremiah Lewis of Fringe reviews films both at his site and American Digest. Lewis can be reached directly at )

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Posted by Vanderleun at December 12, 2004 11:29 AM | TrackBack
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"It is impossible to speak in such a way that you cannot be misunderstood." -- Karl Popper N.B.: Comments are moderated and may not appear immediately. Comments that exceed the obscenity or stupidity limits will be either edited or expunged.

Hey, thanks. I was about to spend the dinner and a movie sum for myself and my girlfriend.

Now I'll just spend the dinner sum.

Excellent discussion of a film with a trailer that almost sucked me in.

Posted by: Sean Brackman at December 13, 2004 10:43 AM

That's kind of what I thought about the first one. Huge cast, all the money in the world to make a great film or at least an entertaining one, and it's all for squat in the end.

And frankly, I have had enough of caper flicks. The message is that if you were handsome, smart and daring enough, you'd do the same and not be a sucker like the rest of us working stiffs. Any crime can be excused as long as we can hate the victim and the perpetrators are good-looking and stylish enough. It's despicable.

Posted by: Uncle Mikey at December 16, 2004 8:44 AM

Three couples of differing ages and interests just saw this movie and enjoyed the light-heartedness and "contrived" complexities of the movie. It was entertaining, which is what movies are supposed to be. It was not literature - I read books for that! You're much too critical about this film.

Posted by: polly at January 1, 2005 10:19 PM
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