Ocean’s 8 (Rated C)
Cast: Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett, Anne Hathaway, Rihanna
Genre: Action comedy
Dwight’s rating: Watchable
The new, all-female spinoff of the “Ocean’s Eleven” film series is in theaters. It’s called “Ocean’s 8”. And um, yeah, that’s pretty much it!
I’m not sure who asked for it, but for some reason it’s here. It represents a follow-up (11 years after the final one) to the modern “Ocean’s trilogy” — Director Steven Soderbergh’s self-indulgent homage to the equally self-indulgent Vegas casino heist comedy, “Ocean’s 11” from 1960. That nearly 60-year-old film featured members of the legendary and infamously fun-loving “Rat Pack”, including Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr.
Soderbergh’s “Ocean’s Eleven” (2001) and its sequels “Ocean’s Twelve” (2004) and “Ocean’s Thirteen” (2007) often give the impression that we’re observing the shenanigans of members of the most privileged fraternity house. Actors George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon and Julia Roberts — among what seems like hundreds of others — were clearly fashioning themselves as a new Rat Pack. And they seemed to be having a blast.
Perhaps too much of a blast! At times, it felt like we weren’t always in on the joke, and that fun didn’t necessarily translate into viewing enjoyment for those watching.
Well, now we have an all-women version. Nothing’s wrong with that concept at all. In fact, using female leads in the remaking of classic films that had been about men seems to be the “in-thing”. We’ve already seen “Ghostbusters”. There’s even apparently an all-female “Lord of the Flies” in the works. Take a moment to process that!
While you do that, know that “Ocean’s 8” follows Debbie Ocean (Sandra Bullock, playing whom we’re told is the sister to Clooney’s Danny Ocean), who’s been devising the biggest heist of her life for five years, eight months, 12 days and counting. She knows what it’s going to take — a team of the best people in the field, starting with her partner-in-crime Lou Miller. Together, they recruit a crew of specialists, including jeweler Amita, street con Constance, suburban mom Tammy, hacker Nine Ball and fashion designer Rose. Their target: the legendary Met Gala in New York City and a necklace that’s worth more than $150 million.
On paper and in theory, “Ocean’s 8” doesn’t sound so bad. However, in reality, it is just plain dull.
Don’t blame the cast, though. The Oscar-winning Bullock heads up an impressive assemblage of pedigreed actresses, including fellow Oscar winners Cate Blanchett and Anne Hathaway, Emmy-winner Sarah Paulson (“The People v. O.J. Simpson”), multiple-Grammy winner Rihanna and multiple-award nominee Helena Bonham Carter.
There are decent performances all around, particularly from Hathaway and Bonham Carter. Everyone seems to be doing the best with what they’ve got to work with. But that’s exactly the problem; they’re not working with much, and some excellent talent gets wasted.
Much more could have been done with Paulson’s intriguing suburban mom character Tammy. A surprisingly good Rihanna and rapper/actress Awkwafina are also underutilized. But the biggest disservice and travesty is the total squandering of Blanchett. By the end of the picture, we know as much about her character as we did at the start.
What’s the point of all of this? Are these big names on the marquee solely to draw numbers into the theaters, only to see these stars for a couple minutes every half hour? If the aim is to provide a multitude of opportunities for characters to occasionally attempt humor with one-liners, then the film is a resounding success — and in keeping with the overstuffed nonsense that was a hallmark of the “Ocean’s trilogy”.
And things take an even weirder turn when actor/talk show host James Corden (“The Late Late Show”) suddenly shows up as a ridiculous Jacques Clouseau-type detective. Again, the fault is neither with the actor nor the character. But his appearance well into the third act immediately transforms the whole production into something jarringly different.
Clearly the blame must be aimed at writer and director Gary Ross.
As he directed and wrote the screenplay for “The Hunger Games” (the first and best edition in that film series) and co-wrote the Tom Hanks film “Big” (1988), it would not be unreasonable to have expected something a bit more thrilling from Ross.
Alas, we are served a cold buffet low on action and even lower on laughs, lacking any real excitement or suspense. On top of that, add preposterousness and many little plot conveniences, and “Ocean’s 8” is simply an extremely disappointing and disposable film.
And that’s all you really need to know.