oceans 12Three years after finding success with the remake of the Rat Pack classic “Ocean’s Eleven”, director Steven Soderbergh and the cast of the previous film return for another go-round with “Ocean’s Twelve”.

“Ocean’s Twelve” begins as Danny Ocean (George Clooney) and the rest of his band of thieves have gone their separate ways. However, the Mark in their previous heist, Terry Benedict (Andy Garcia), has discovered where each member of Ocean’s Eleven has fled to and made it his personal quest to get all of his money back with interest. Now, Danny and crew must unite once more to successfully pull off another massive job, and once again, failure is not an option.

As an avid movie buff I find it increasingly irritating when Hollywood cranks out a sequel to a hit movie without ensuring that the newest installment can equal the previous film. Worse than that is when it is blatantly obvious that the sequel was made only in an attempt to cash in on the success of its predecessor rather than improving upon it. This is essentially how “Ocean’s Twelve” feels to me whenever I sit down to watch it. In my opinion, the film feels like Steven Soderbergh was looking to make another big hit and he figured why not try to catch lightning in a bottle twice with another Ocean’s movie. The problem with this is that the story written by George Nolfi (“The Bourne Ultimatum”) isn’t nearly on par with that of the original.

With “Ocean’s Eleven” we had a great story that was thoroughly engaging, with terrific characters and interaction, and a sort of carefree atmosphere that was just enjoyable to watch. Then we come to “Ocean’s Twelve” and the first thing anyone will notice is that the atmosphere of the first one has been completely stripped away. In its place is a much more somber tone, devoid of a majority of the fun-loving spirit that made the previous effort so entertaining. Secondly, the story was too slow in its pacing, with large segments of the film appearing to just meander aimlessly about, before finally zeroing in on the primary plot once again. Lastly, the characters, while remaining mostly interesting and intriguing, are not without problems of their own that creep up over the course of the movie. Namely, their interplay with each other felt less focused, and many of their conversations seemed irrelevant to the overall story.

I must point out, that even though many of the elements that clicked so well in the first film were omitted or changed for this one; that doesn’t necessarily make this a bad movie. Truth be told, I was fine with the fact that Soderbergh and his writer attempted to shake things up a bit more with this installment. For a lot of movie franchises, shaking up the proceedings is the only way to ensure a sense of freshness in the production. However, in this instance, perhaps they went a little too far with the changes; resulting in a movie that almost feels out of place in the series. Honestly, if it wasn’t for this story continuing directly out of the events from the previous film, “Ocean’s Twelve” would have felt far too removed from its predecessor, and I would have been hard-pressed to enjoy it as a sequel at all.

I stated earlier that the cast from the original reprised their roles for this film, and this is something that I appreciate very much from any franchise. This is not because the cast was doing anything revolutionary in this series (they aren’t), I just appreciate when a film retains continuity for characters by keeping the same cast members whenever possible. While the returning members are not challenged any further by this movie in terms of their acting capabilities, it did provide many of them a chance to expand upon their characters’ individual storylines. For instance, Matt Damon’s character of Linus is taking a more proactive approach in this story, unlike in the first film where he was more reactive due to his insecurities. I also like that Julia Roberts, although relegated to little more than an over-glorified cameo, was allowed to participate to an extent in the con. Her scenes were made more enjoyable because they injected some of the moments of levity into the otherwise vapid atmosphere of the movie.

Even though I was pleased that the original cast reprised their roles for this film, I was disappointed by the fact that several of them appeared to be bored throughout the duration. Two prime examples of where the cast lagged was with George Clooney and Brad Pitt. Their once snappy, quick-witted banter that was so entertaining previously, now lacks the enthusiasm and natural flow that filled their prior performances; instead, their conversations felt tired and over-rehearsed. Surprisingly, the newest addition to the cast, Catherine Zeta-Jones (“The Mask of Zorro”) also appeared uninterested in her character. Every time she was on screen she would deliver her lines as flatly as possible, and look completely apathetic in her role. I don’t know about anyone else, but if I was signing onto a film, sequel or otherwise, I would do my level best to seem as motivated for my character as humanly possible. Anyways, I digress.

While I know it may appear that I disliked “Ocean’s Twelve”, it did still manage to entertain me to some extent, despite the laundry list of problems. However, those problems that creep up along the way do cause it to fall well short of its predecessor. To paraphrase this film’s own tagline, “Twelve is not the new eleven.”

“Ocean’s Twelve” is rated PG-13 for language.