If nothing else, I understand the rationale behind Ocean’s Twelve. After Ocean’s Eleven was a gigantic success, the people behind it were told they could go ahead with a sequel. But they were sure that people didn’t want to see the same thing again, so they made the decision to have a bigger cast, more (smaller) heists, and three “villains” for us to root against. On paper, all of that makes sense, except for possibly the “smaller” part.
We begin with a knock on the front door of Danny Ocean (Geordge Clooney) and Tess’ (Julia Roberts) house. Guess who’s back? That’s right, it’s the antagonist from the last film, Terry Benedict (Andy Garcia). Danny isn’t at home, so he leave a dire message for Tess: The thieves from the first film have two weeks to pay him back his $163 million and interest, or they’ll all be dead. He then goes to each other member of the group and tells them the same things. Why Tess or Danny doesn’t phone the others and tell them to get out of dodge is not explained, but it gets a pass because it’s a good way of showing us each member of the original Eleven, while also letting us see what they’ve been doing with their time after getting away with millions of dollars.
I’m not going to describe the cast again, as if you’re watching the Ocean’s Eleven sequel, you should already know who they are. Instead, I’ll list the additions. Catherine Zeta-Jones stars as a Detective stationed in Amsterdam, who we see in the opening scene was romantically involved with Brad Pitt’s character, Rusty. She spends most of her time chasing our group of thieves around, but since she and Rusty were involved before, that will come up just like Tess and Danny’s relationship did in the last film. Vincent Cassel plays a rival thief and our third villain, although it would have been nice to see more of him, as he only shows up after the midpoint, and doesn’t stick around often, coming and going as he pleases.
So the gang gets back together, and are aware that coming up with $190 million is going to be pretty difficult. They decide to fly to Amsterdam in hopes to find a job there. They get one, but it’s only worth 2.3 million Euros, nowhere near enough to pay off their debt. They take it anyway, and this begins the first of a couple of thefts that will take up most of our time for the rest of the film.
The reason that Ocean’s Eleven worked so well was in its casting, so it made sense to bring back the same people to do the sequel. But this film is playing more to how their careers had done up until this point. This time, there are characters who get far more screen time than others, while those lacking in time get put in prison as an excuse. After we arrive in Amsterdam, you don’t see much of Bernie Mac, Eddie Jemison, Elliott Gould, Scott Caan or Carl Reiner, although the later doesn’t even accompany them on the trip, citing age as the reason.
Instead, we get a lot of George Clooney, Brad Pitt and Matt Damon, which I suppose makes sense because they’re making the most money, but doesn’t help make it feel like a team dynamic. The character are all still sophisticated and don’t take everything too seriously, but there’s a lack of focus on them, and more on the plot, which is a shame. If I wanted to see more of these characters, I’d probably be better off watching Ocean’s Eleven again, because I might get more out of it.
This wouldn’t be too big of a problem to overcome if the plot was any good, but it isn’t anything special. We move from location to location, forgetting about everything that happened before. For example, most of the time on-screen, the characters don’t seem urgent because they seem to forget that they’re going to be killed in less than two weeks. It’s not mentioned all that often, and they spend a great deal of time meandering around. In one scene George Clooney goes around asking people if he looks 50 years old, and that’s all that happens. If my life was on the line, I wouldn’t be that worried about how old I looked.
There are still clever moments, though. Bruce Willis shows up at one point, playing himself, while one of the heists involves Julia Roberts’ character, Tess, ends up playing, well, Julia Roberts. They look alike, obviously, so the cast tries to use that appearance in order to get past a bunch of security, only to be stopped by Willis who claims to be a friend of Roberts. It was pretty funny, but it was also the point where I stopped losing interest, because I knew how we had to end at this point. If the filmmakers aren’t taking this seriously anymore, the ending isn’t hard to predict.
If nothing else, Ocean’s Twelve never becomes a chore to watch, but it does if you try to make sense of it all, or if you’re hoping for a big heist like in the first film. It becomes just a standard caper movie, with the focus on a plot that jumps from point to point like a comic moves from joke to joke, instead of the characters. This might actually make it a better film for some people, but for me it just made it seem unfocused and sometimes not all that fun to watch, even if the actors all seem to be enjoying themselves.
Ocean’s Twelve is still, overall, a fun watch, but it’s missing the special something that made Ocean’s Eleven great. The characters seemed to be on vacation, having fun but not doing anything of value, while the group dynamic fell apart by placing many of them in jail for most of the time spent abroad. And yet, because there’s some cleverness to the jumpy plot, and because the actors seemed to have fun, it’s hard to dislike it. Don’t go in expecting another Ocean’s Eleven, though, as it’s not as good as that movie was.