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Ocean's Eight

(2018) ** 1/2 Pg-13
110 min. Warner Bros. Director: Gary Ross. Cast: Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett, Anne Hathaway, Helena Bonham Carter, Sarah Paulson, Rihanna, Mindy Kaling, Awkwafina, Richard Armitage, James Corden.

/content/films/5113/1.jpgA month after this year’s Met Gala went off without a hitch, Ocean’s Eight invades the most exclusive party in America to create a little chaos and make off with millions in jewelry. As the title suggests, this Ocean’s is a spinoff—and also a sequel to—Steven Soderbergh’s 2000s trio of heist films: Ocean’s Eleven (itself a remake of 1960’s Ocean’s 11), Ocean’s Twelve and Ocean’s Thirteen. But this time, the women are the masterminds.

Although Matt Damon’s cameo didn’t survive the #metoo moment following internet protests, co-writer/director Gary Ross (Pleasantville, The Hunger Games) gamely includes a few links to the previous trilogy. Yes, a couple of familiar faces pop up in brief cameos, but mostly Ocean’s Eight works to establish a new, all-female ensemble headed by Debbie Ocean (Sandra Bullock), the sister of George Clooney’s Danny Ocean. Just released from a five-year stretch in a New Jersey prison, Debbie immediately recruits her best friend Lou (Cate Blanchett) to partner in the heist Debbie has used her lockup time to plan.

Most of the fun of these movies is in the pile-up of stars and kooky characters. Ocean’s Eight ticks the boxes of franchise extension and the “team-up” movie that has found new life in the superhero oeuvre. And so Bullock and Blanchett are joined by Helena Bonham Carter (as a fashion designer in need of a win), Rihanna (as the requisite hacker extraordinaire), Mindy Kaling (The Mindy Project), Sarah Paulsen (American Horror Story), and Awkwafina (of Warner’s upcoming Crazy Rich Asians).

If the math seems a little fuzzy there, that’s part of the labyrinthine plotting of a heist movie. The eighth woman beholden to Ocean is a “mark”: Anne Hathaway as movie star and Met Gala invitee Daphne Kluger. Not even the surprises are quite surprises here, since Ocean’s Eight recycles a formula now very familiar from not only these films but the 1960s legacy that spawned them (cross-reference Topkapi and TV’s Mission: Impossible) and the modern TV knockoffs (Leverage, Hustle). One shouldn’t underestimate the degree of difficulty here, though, in plotting a heist story and, more so, in juggling this many characters (plus Richard Armitage as Debbie’s caddish ex and James Corden as an insurance investigator).

Ross brings a reasonably sure hand and plenty of eye candy to this slick, glitzy fantasy, which is no more or less than an amiable, star-powered trifle. The stars are all on their respective games (and arguably the least famous one, Awkwafina, turns out to be the comical M.V.P.). Ocean’s Eight doesn’t quite manage the snap of Soderbergh’s films—Ross doesn’t attend carefully enough to the stakes, making for a weirdly laid-back heist movie—but composer Daniel Pemberton obligingly kicks out some cool jazz, enough for a Pavlovian response in the good company of a bracingly strong ensemble.

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