The Movie Binge

Review: Ocean's 13

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In this week's New Yorker, Dave Eggers remembers re-enacting films with his friends (he liked the shoot-em-ups), which made me realize that summer movies are all about fulfilling the desires of your inner 12 year-old. Apparently, my inner 12 year-old loves dressing in shiny suits, talking fast and using overly complicated schemes to steal expensive items. Unlike Dave Eggers, I have accepted my nebishy jewishness and am drawn to ridiculously cool guys using brains over brawn instead of the other way around (he reenacted First Blood). The first two films in the Ocean's series fulfilled this fantasy quite nicely and I was eager for the final installment. Sadly, I left unenthused. Had my inner 12 year-old gotten over Vegas? After many hours of deliberation, I think my inner child is just fine, but I'm not so sure about the stars of Ocean's 13.

The bread and butter of the franchise is fast-paced action, editing and dialogue with knowing winks and nods thrown in to make the audience feel like they're part of the team. It's this inclusion that made the first two films so effective. Danny Ocean (George Clooney) and Rusty (Brad Pitt) were likable guys that were at the top of their game and had fun teaching arrogant, rich guys a lesson. I loved it. In 13, they're doing more of the same as they try and right the wrongs of casino-owner Willie Banks (Al Pacino), who stole their buddy Reuben's (Elliott Gould) share of a casino. The premise was great and all the characters were back to keep the party going, but the magic was gone.

This is the part when I would point out that the script or the editing or the acting ruined the film, but I don't think that's it. To me, it just seemed like the band of merry men just weren't having fun making these movies anymore. It's like summer camp. The first year you go and try everything and are hyper-friendly because you want everyone to like you. You're giving it your all. The second year you're happy to be back and see all of your friends, but you still want to master archery and pass your swim test. By the third year you've hit puberty and just want to kill mayflies, steal from the canteen and talk about girls.

When you make a movie that's all about the chemistry of the actors, using the same formula and changing the details works for only so long — you've got to shake it up. It seems inconsequential that these actors are playing casino-rats and they're clearly bored with it. Like third year spanish, all they're doing is sitting in the back of class and picking out the most ridiculous name ("Burrito!" "No, Cachuates!") to use for the year. If I had unlimited powers over the movie industry, I would have switched the casts of Pirate's and Ocean's. Both films were underwhelming but would have been fantastic if my fantasy came true. Imagine Brad Pitt as Jack Sparrow and Johnny Depp as Danny Ocean.

I think the film's players had the best intentions going in (i.e. 13 wasn't about the money) as the formula had worked twice and they loved making these movies, but the well ran dry. Here's hoping Soderbergh takes my advice and brings some of these actors together again. They can tables for all I care; I just want to see these guys having fun together.