|George Clooney||Daniel "Danny" Ocean|
|Brad Pitt||Russ "Rusty" Ryan|
|Andy Garcia||Terry Benedict|
|Matt Damon||Linus Caldwell|
|Carl Reiner||Saul Bloom|
|Elliott Gould||Reuben Tishkoff|
|Directed by||Steven Soderbergh|
"Nobody's going to come out of this movie going 'Wow,'? admits Steven Soderbergh, the director of ?Ocean?s Eleven?. ?They're going to come out going, 'Well, they didn't screw it up.' The issue is more like, is this going to be a legendary folly or is it going to be okay? The best we can hope for is it doesn't suck." It?s a modest enough goal for the man who last year at this time was dodging bouquets as his two acclaimed movies, ?Traffic? and ?Erin Brockovich? revved up for Best Picture honors. And it?s fair to say that with the bar set that low, he clears it, without much to spare.
It has been observed that there is less risk and more reward in doing a remake of a bad movie than a good one. The original ?Ocean?s Eleven?, made 40 years ago to accommodate the talents of Sinatra?s Rat Pack, was a buddy movie made with real buddies. It wasn?t supposed to be very good, it was supposed to be cool, a playground for the legendary Hollywood in-group , and a chance for the common people to hang with the likes of Frank, Dino, Sammy, and the rest. The guys and their gals were assembled, a plot was assembled, a movie was assembled, and a handsome profit was made by all.
It was this real-life buddy aspect that gave the old ?Ocean?s Eleven? its cachet and set it apart from its philosophical brethren, including the superior ?The Dirty Dozen? and the far superior ?The Magnificent Seven?. And it is this aspect that is missing from the remake. George Clooney and Brad Pitt and Don Cheadle may in fact be the best of pals, but (not to get too Zen about it) if stars bond in Hollywood and nobody knows about it, does it really matter?
There is no star in Hollywood today with greater charm and ease than Clooney. Pitt is no slouch in this department either, and that is almost enough to build a movie around. That and the title, which keeps gathering more nostalgic approval the farther it gets from actually being seen, have catapulted this ?Ocean?s Eleven? to a record-breaking December opening, and left Harry Potter sputtering in its dust. They?ve taken the old plot, a gang of pals getting together to rob five Las Vegas casinos, and in the spirit of lowered expectations set by Soderbergh they?ve reduced the target number to a more manageable three casinos. All three are owned by the same guy, Harry Benedict (Andy Garcia), who also happens to be romancing Ocean?s ex-wife Tess (Julia Roberts), which gives the job a personal edge along with the professional.
Danny Ocean (Clooney), recently paroled from a robbery hitch in the pen, assembles his gang, all experts in one thing and another, for this job-of-a-lifetime. Cheadle, sporting an irritating English accent that makes him sound a bit like Stan Laurel, is an explosives whiz, Matt Damon is so bland as to be almost invisible as a pickpocket, Carl Reiner is very entertaining as a semi-retired con man, Bernie Mac is subdued as a blackjack dealer, and tiny Peking acrobat Shaobo Qin does some impressive flips as the team mascot. There are sentimental walk-by cameos from Henry Silva and Angie Dickinson of the original Ocean?s crew.
But aside from Clooney and Pitt, and some nice moments from Reiner, the glittering talents drawn together for this starfest are largely wasted. Half an hour after leaving the theater it?s hard to remember anything Matt Damon said or did; and as for Julia Roberts, she?s not only unmemorable, she?s actually unappealing. Still, the movie slides along smoothly on shiny skids, waking up for minutes at a time with snappy dialogue and passing an agreeable two hours, if one?s expectations are as low as the filmmaker?s. It?s nowhere near ?Wow!?, but it doesn?t suck.
© Text 2002 Jonathan Richards - Filmfreak.be