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Coasting on Fame

'Ocean's Twelve' is too strung out and relaxed to succeed

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The second time around isn't nearly as jaunty as the first with Ocean's Twelve, a comedown from that initial mega-gathering of the movie gods. George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Julia Roberts, Matt Damon and just about everybody else in Hollywood re-form for what feels like a European vacation that required occasional acting by those who signed on. Nobody seems to have their heart in it this time, and the results are sleepy.

It's more than three years later, and the band of thieves has split up and gone about their business. Danny Ocean and Tess (Clooney and Roberts) are married, living a humdrum life and getting anxious about paint shades for their modest home. A surprise visit from Terry Benedict (Andy Garcia), the casino mogul who was ripped off in Ocean's Eleven, ruins their three-year anniversary plans. Benedict demands his money back, plus interest, and the Ocean gang immediately gets back together for more dirty work.

Right here, we have a problem. One of the great things about the original was the way Clooney's Ocean went after Benedict, no matter the consequences. It was also cool to see the cocky Benedict get his financial ass handed to him on a plate. All of that is trashed in the first few minutes of the sequel, as Benedict gets the upper hand, and Ocean essentially becomes his lapdog, immediately accepting the terms and going to work for his nemesis. While this could've been fun, director Steven Soderbergh uses this weird twist of fate as nothing but a joyless plot mechanism to get the cast to Europe.

The so-called caper that follows isn't a lot of fun, either. Ocean and crew start their European tour in Amsterdam, where they rob somebody's house (big deal), and then they wind up in Italy, where they try to steal some majestic egg thing (ho-hum). Meanwhile, they're being tailed by a detective, played by Catherine Zeta-Jones, who's also the former girlfriend of Pitt's character. Any small momentum the film manages to muster is lost when it focuses on the Zeta-Jones character. Her subplot is of little interest.

According to the Internet Movie Database, this film was originally intended to be a John Woo movie featuring a completely different cast of characters. If this is true, it's not surprising, because the setting and scenarios seem all wrong for the Ocean bunch. It was much more fun watching each character playing an integral part in one big job. Seeing them working on smaller, less elaborate heists is not all that enthralling, and the importance of each character is diminished. Characters played by Carl Reiner, Don Cheadle and Bernie Mac don't even factor.

The film resorts to sophomoric humor that's hit-and-miss, with most of the funnier lines falling to Damon's earnest but dimwitted character. A scene in which Julia Roberts' Tess has to pose as a famous actress has some charm in the beginning, but becomes outlandish to the point that the film loses some credibility and becomes one giant in-joke. The last heist is banal and farfetched. The movie would've been better if the gang had just stayed in Vegas and robbed the Barbary Coast

This turkey ends an amazing streak of goodness for Clooney, who, in my opinion, hasn't headlined a bad movie since '97's The Peacemaker and Batman & Robin. Watching him slum around in Italy with Brad Pitt and Julia Roberts just doesn't seem reason enough for a movie, unless you like your movies strung out and way too relaxed. Nothing's more annoying than actors coasting on their fandom, and that's what seems to be going on with Ocean's Twelve.

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