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Oceans 11

I really had no excuse to miss such a star-studded film in the theaters, but somehow, I did. My pal Eric was nice enough to bring it over last night (he'd already viewed it), and I finally got the chance to catch the Clooney-Pitt-Soderbergh-etc. collaboration. Clooney heads a stellar cast as Danny Ocean, a career criminal who decides to gather a team (hence the title) to pull off a daring robbery. Joining him as his chief lieutenant is Brad Pitt, and together they recruit the likes of Carl Reiner, Matt Damon, Don Cheadle, Bernie Mac, Scott Caan, and a few other guys you don't recognize. Danny needs experts of all sorts, because the job is complicated, but the plot takes a twist when Pitt finds out that what's really motivating Danny is the fact that his ex-wife (Julia Roberts) is involved with the target of the scheme. The plot is straight-up caper, with scenes designed to fool both the mark (Andy Garcia) and the audience, which it succeeds at to a certain degree. The performances are all very loose and easy, and you can tell these guys got along and had a good time making the film. Most of that translates up on the screen, which is good. No one really stretches themselves much in this movie, though -- for Soderbergh it's kind of like Out of Sight lite, twice the star power but half the depth. Clooney pretty much reprises his role from that film with very little variance, which is fine; we want to see George playing a smooth-talking screw up, that's what he's good at. Pitt is sharper and more subtle than I've seen him in his last few outings; he may have gotten a start as a pretty boy, but he is maturing into a fine actor. Damon is fairly good in a less-than-flashy role, and Carl Reiner is as you would expect fun. Of the cast I was disappointed only with Don Cheadle, who is universally reliable; they strapped him with an English accent that doesn't ever really work, so his scenes are a bit embarrassing (much as I like Cheadle, why didn't they get any of the talented guys from Snatch to play that role?). Roberts is mostly there to be pretty scenery, but she more than excels at that, so that's an easily forgiven sin. Ocean's 11 is fun and it has some very cute dialogue peppered throughout. My only real complaint is that it's a little too neat and ends up coming off as a tad contrived; they not only have to pull off the scam, but Clooney has to win his ex-wife back, and all the while they have to fool the audience as well. While a lot of it is clever, some of the plotting and scheming is just a little too much to be believed. It's not a serious flaw, but it keeps the movie from being spectacular. Ocean's 11 is well worth the rental, however, even if it doesn't deserve a permanent place on the shelf. May 13, 2002

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