In 10 Words or Less
Clooney and Pitt get the band back together
I make no secret of my love of the "team" movie, where a group of diverse people, each with their own unique ability, get together to defeat a common foe. "The Goonies," "Monster Squad," "The Mighty Ducks," and just about every comic-book superhero team movie; they all prove that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. For some reason, most of these movies are aimed at younger audiences, as the adult team concept only appears mainly in war movies and crime movies. From these genres, Ocean's Eleven might be the greatest example of a team movie, with 11 distinct characters who work together to put their skills to good use. It's the best of all worlds.
Ocean's Twelve tries to recreate the magic of that remake classic, but runs into at least one major roadblock, which is the lack of the same feel. That's thanks to a screenplay that didn't start as Ocean's Twelve. If The Empire Strikes Back had been made by wedging Luke Skywalker into a later draft of The Last Starfighter, how much of a Star Wars film would it have been? That's probably the biggest problem with 12, as you don't get a sense that this was the natural next step.
What is that next step? The crew's past has caught up with them, so it's off to Europe to pull off some robberies to pay back the loot they stole in the first film. This is easier said than done, as a rival thief, the Night Fox, is interfering in their business and bringing the long arm of the law into the picture. That's the basics, onto which one scam after another is piled on, including one that's strictly sitcom-worthy, and really shouldn't be included in this film. I'm sure it was fun to film, but watching it is another matter.
While there are problems with the script, there's nothing wrong with the acting, as Pitt and Co. are their usual smooth operators, especially the hysterical Brit Don Cheadle creates and Matt Damon's unsure rookie Linus. Andy Garcia is sufficiently menacing in his brief return as casino kingpin Terry Benedict, while new-to-the-show Catherine Zeta Jones has the right look and sound for a Euro-cop who shares a past with Pitt, and is hot on the gang's tail. Cameos by Robbie Coltrane, Eddie Izzard, Topher Grace and others make the movie an exercise in acting brilliance.
Keeping pace with the acting is Stephen Soderberg's directing. The style of the film is much different than that of the first film, this time taking on the appearance of a foreign film from the '70s. The subtitles and captions, the look and sound, and obviously the locale, this time in Europe, all call to mind heist films like The Italian Job and any number of movies that filled the Saturday afternoon network cinema spot for so many years. It's a beautiful knock-off.
Like the movie it delivers, the Ocean's Twelve DVD has a slick, fun feel. Opening with an iconic bit of animation, done in the style of the film's teaser trailer, the disc has an animated anamorphic widescreen main menu with clips from the movie. Options include Play Movie, Scene Selections, Special Features (a misleading section name) and Languages. The scene selection menus have still previews and titles for each scene. Languages available include English 5.1 and 2.0 tracks and French 5.1, while English, French and Spanish subtitles can be selected.
Ocean's Twelve is a very visual film, thanks to Soderberg's style. Presented in anamorphic widescreen (the box says widescreen edition, but (happily) I can't find a full-screen version for sale), the image is sharp, with a high level of detail and color, dependent on the scene's setting or shooting technique. No dirt or damage was visible, while compression errors and digital noise weren't evident.
The audio presentation for this film was rather lacking, with the majority of the film spent filling the front speakers, leaving some bits of ambient sound and music for the back speakers to pump out. Watching the film late at night, I expected to ride the remote, but there wasn't enough going on in this presentation to wake the dog. That said, the recording is excellent, with crystal clear dialogue and without any distortion.
The film's theatrical trailer is included in anamorphic widescreen. And that's it. This probably means one of two things. Either A) there's a packed, two-disc special edition on the way, or B) Warner Brothers is testing to see if they can sell a blockbuster movie without spending money on extras. The cynic in me can see B being the truth, but I hope not. Maybe it's Soderberg's fault.
The Bottom Line
It's not equal to Ocean's Eleven, but what could really match that fantastic film? Even without the same fast-paced, witty, plotted to the most minute detail excellence of the re-made original, this is no Cannonball Run. It's a fun, airy heist flick with a cast to die for, giving you a good two hours of pretty places, pretty people and cute capers. No one should feel cheated at the end of this film. That is, as long as you didn't buy it. The DVD is barebones, though the presentation is very good. Considering the likelihood of a double-dip, a rental is your best option for now.