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Published: 2005-05-03 - 01:09:00
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Ocean's Eleven Review

By Joe Lozito

Sham's Casino

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I'm not even sure where to begin with the problems in Steven Soderbergh's remake of "Ocean's Eleven". First of all, calling it a remake is a loose label at best since the only thing beside the title taken from the 1960 Rat Pack original (itself based on a story) is the lead character's name. Other than that, the film is a standard heist movie. Even the gimmick from the 1960 original - ripping off 5 Las Vegas casinos in one night - is missing. Realizing, I assume, the impossibility of that plot in the 21st century - Mr. Soderbergh and writer Ted Griffin claim the film is about robbing three casinos at once. In practice, however, the film is really about stealing from one big vault (it seems all three casinos share a common impregnable and convenient vault).

Perhaps this film will bring about a much-needed moratorium on heist thrillers. There have been a few good ones recently ("The Score" comes to mind), but for the most part these movies thread over the same familiar terrain: rounding up the crew, the voice-over planning, the computer simulation, the last minute snafu, the climactic mind-play with the audience. We've seen it all before countless times and, unfortunately, even an extraordinary director like Mr. Soderbergh (falling back on familiar tricks, better used in "Out of Sight" and "The Limey") and a cast of A-listers can't make it fresh again.

Said cast is uniformly bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. George Clooney is commanding in his turtleneck and blazer, Brad Pitt is playful with his linen suits and junk food fixation, Julia Roberts is appropriately ravishing as Ocean's Ex and Matt Damon falls back comfortably into Will Hunting mode for the role of the rookie. The cast is rounded out by a who's who of Hollywood. Even Elliot Gould and Carl Reiner (who creates the only complete character worth caring about, largely because he looks so frail) are on hand as elder statesmen. And Andy Garcia (as the ill-fated casino owner) is stuck with the thankless role of requisite "bad guy". They each attempt to "star power" their way though the movie, and for the most part they succeed.

The real problem with the film, though, is that it is actually about the robbery. The fact that I'm even questioning the facts of the robbery shows that the film had its mind in the wrong place. The draw of the first film was watching the cast hang out drinking together. And it was enough to distract from the silliness of their plan (and the fact that they pretty much succeed). After watching the remake, I should be thinking about the great scenes with Brad Pitt, George Clooney and Matt Damon trading barbs and comebacks, or the thrill of watching Julia, George and Andy Garcia spar in a love triangle. Alas no. Instead, the entire film is about the planning of this heist (which, by the way, is completely and totally unbelievable). I won't go into specifics here, but let's just say that there is an entire piece of the heist involving Carl Reiner's character which is completely superfluous.

If it is enough for you to just see these actors on screen (not together, mind you, since they rarely occupy the same scene) then you might have fun, but whatever you do, don't pay attention. Like "Mission: Impossible", they setup a vault that is so impossible to break into that they have to spend two hours thinking of a way into it. What they come up with, unfortunately, is so full of holes that I wouldn't be surprised if Nevada bans the film as libelous. I certainly won't be watching it again, so that would be fine by me.

What did you think?

Movie title Ocean's Eleven
Release year 2001
MPAA Rating PG-13
Our rating
Summary Acclaimed director Steve Soderbergh makes the first uninspired decision of his career by remaking the 1960 Rat Rack caper dud into another caper dud without the Rat Pack. The cast is game and attempt to ride out the script on their star power but the fun wears thin very quickly.
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