by Hope Madden and George Wolf
More than 15 years ago, Steven Soderbergh recast the Rat Pack, pointing out a set of Hollywood A-listers led by George Clooney who were as stylish and cool as Sinatra and the fellas.
Three films later (four, if you count Soderbergh’s hillbilly version Logan Lucky, and you should) and the Ocean family is drawn once again to the big payoff.
This time it’s Danny Ocean’s sister Deb (Sandra Bullock). A life of crime runs in the family, it seems. Fresh from incarceration, Deb is looking to execute the con she’s been fine tuning over the last 5 years in lockdown.
What Debbie needs is a team, and she knows what kind.
“A ‘him’ gets noticed. A ‘her’ gets ignored.”
That’s a line well-placed and well-played, and though the film seems awfully familiar from the jump, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The music bumpers, throwback scene segues, strategy meetings and comfortable pacing set the cool vibe, and Ocean’s 8 is cheeky enough in its outright impersonation of the previous installments to shrug off feeling derivative. Instead, it comes off as second class, which may be more disappointing.
Though director Gary Ross (The Hunger Games) can crib the style—his cast (including Cate Blanchett, Sarah Paulson, Helena Bonham Carter, Mindy Kaling, Rihanna and a spunky Awkwafina) can’t generate the same chemistry. No one does a bad job, far from it, but Ocean’s 8 lacks the overlapping dialogue and easy rapport of earlier efforts. They have the talent, they just don’t have the material.
Anne Hathaway is the real thief in this caper, stealing every scene with a fun and funny send-up of the Hollywood diva persona (including her own). James Corden, popping in as a fraud expert investigating the theft of a multi-million dollar Cartier necklace during the Met Gala, brightens up the third act as well with his fresh perspective and savvy delivery.
Otherwise, the side characters are neither as meaty or as interesting as in previous franchise efforts. Surprisingly it’s Blanchett who disappoints most. Too dialed down, her Lou lacks the color and definition to be effective as Debbie’s second banana, and Blanchett’s casual greatness feels wasted.
The best of the Ocean’s films rely on sharp characterizations and sharper sleight of hand. You believe you’re watching the con unfold only to find that …whaat?….the real heist was somewhere you weren’t looking. It is you who’s been conned.
While 8 follows that formula it succeeds only to a degree, its script simply not crisp enough to charm you into buying all in. The con itself is not believably intricate and Ross, who co-wrote the screenplay with Olivia Milch, cops out in act three with heavy exposition.
But hey, heist movies are fun, and movies with this much star power are fun. Ergo, Ocean’s 8 is a fun time at the movies.
Glitzy, forgettable fun.