Following in the family business is usually perceived as a good thing, but when that business is crime, things get a bit complicated. Debbie Ocean (Sandra Bullock) has the big shoes of her older brother Danny to fill. He was the mastermind behind several major capers, including a top casino heist. Debbie’s biggest score ended with a prison sentence and empty pockets after her lover Claude (Richard Armitage) double-crossed her.
Now paroled, Debbie immediately gets to work building the perfect team to pull off the impossible — stealing a priceless necklace right off the neck of a major star at New York’s annual Met Gala. If she can manage to mix in a little revenge, all the better.
This is one flat Ocean. That might make for smooth sailing, but not so smooth for a film. Acclaimed writer/director Gary Ross charts a troubled course right from the start. An early scene informs us that Debbie’s brother Danny (played by George Clooney in the last three Ocean’s films) is dead for no apparent reason. The rest of the film then teases us with the hint of a Clooney cameo that never materializes. That’s all the more suspect when you realize that a list of included cameos could exhaust a newly-filled ink cartridge.
The most important aspect of a heist film is its tension, and here, it’s as riveting as a choice between royal or navy blue socks. You’ll spend more time oohing and aahing over the cast’s dresses than any of its plot points. This is in no way a reflection on the cast. They’re clearly first-rate with everyone doing a fine job, especially Anne Hathaway playing a parody of herself. Rihanna also shines as one of the crew.
The deadly iceberg of this voyage is the writing. It’s painfully paced and entirely implausible. After the strange, inexplicable killing off of Danny, the film slows to a crawl as it sets up the robbery. Each new detail is more ludicrous than the last. A typical example involves the team planting a bug in the conference room of a top security firm and leaving it there. In any real world scenario, the company would have found it soon thereafter, putting the entire plan at risk, but not here. The rest of the plan is equally dubious with plot holes as glaring as the gems that they hope to steal. The laziness also extends to the characters. Bullock’s Debbie and sidekick Lou (Cate Blanchett) are little more than stand-ins for Clooney and his Ocean’s cohort Brad Pitt. I’m surprised that the writers didn’t just make Lou the sister of Pitt’s character to complete the effect.
If you enjoy a grand-scale game of Where’s Waldo? with celebrities in the Waldo role and a truckload of fancy dresses, gowns, shoes and makeup, then this is your ticket. The only smart heist here is the one undertaken by the studio in stealing your money for that ticket.