June 14, 2007

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Ocean's Thirteen (PG-13)
George Clooney reminds us just how very pretty he is in the very pretty Oceanís Thirteen, a needless sequel that really looks like itís going to be more fun than it is.

The gang reassembles after Reuben (Elliot Gould) suffers a heart attack stroke thing. This medical condition is brought on by Willie Bank (Al Pacino), a casino developer who cruelly forces Reuben out of a project he has just bankrolled. After signing away his rights to the casino (it was that or take a very short trip down the very high building), Reuben is left near-comatose and Danny Ocean (Clooney), Rusty Ryan (Brad Pitt) and team decide that this kind of strong-arming is a real dishonor-among-thieves situation (after all, both Reuben and Willie shook Frank Sinatraís hand and thereís a code between guys who shook Sinatraís hand). After Dannyís attempt to appeal to Willieís better nature fails, the gang kicks into full con mode. They decide to take away two things Willie cares most about ó money and prestige. Their plan is to literally break The Bank (the hotelís name) ó on opening night, they will rig the machines to make sure the house loses big. Part two involves torturing a casino critic with bed bugs, bad food, rash-inducing linens and a forced checkout to ensure that The Bank doesnít win a coveted five-diamond rating.

Naturally, everything is more difficult than it looks. Part of the plan to rig the casino involves sending Turk (Scott Caan) and Virgil (Casey Affleck) to a dice factory in Mexico where they end up leading a workersí rebellion. To break a complex fraud detection machine, the gang needs to call in Roman (Eddie Izzard). And then thereís Linus (Matt Damon), whoís desperate to play a bigger role and decides that, for whatever reason, that bigger role needs a big prosthetic nose.

Neither Julia Roberts nor Catherine Zeta-Jones returned for this movie and the loss of these love interests for Danny and Rusty takes a little of the dreamy romance out of the film. The movie does bring back Terry Benedict (Andy Garcia) but not nearly enough ó his arrogance and his greed make him a fun villain and the movie suffers without him. (Because Al Pacino? Oy. Or shall I say, hoo-ah! Go back and watch The Godfather Part II ó Mikey, what the hell happened?)

I recognize that Oceanís Twelve was a bad movie and that, technically, Oceanís Thirteen is a better one. But it wasnít nearly as much fun. I suppose the goofiness of Oceanís Twelve was a little too much for this cast, which, by and large, is made up of talented actors. I sense that they wanted this movie to be actually good and not just an enjoyable lark. They buckled down here ó buckled down a little too much, frankly. I like my Clooney and Pitt interplay to be a little looser, a little more winky. But while I wasnít as enamored as Iíd hoped to be, there was enough of the Oceanís charm to keep me at least mildly amused. Even best bartender makes a flat cocktail from time to time. C+

Rated PG-13 for brief (and mostly funny) sensuality. Directed by Steven Soderbergh and written by Brian Koppelman and David Levien (from characters by George Clayton Johnson and Jack Golden Russell), Oceanís Thirteen is two hours and two minutes long and is distributed in wide release by Warner Bros. Pictures.