Fun as Ocean’s 8 is, there’s a gnawing sense throughout that something’s missing.
Arriving 11 years after Steven Soderbergh’s apparent series-capper Ocean’s Thirteen, the female-fronted quasi-continuance lacks the stylistic flair of its Clooney/Pitt/Damon cousins, though that’s to be expected from a Gary Ross film.
Foremost a great storyteller and at best an average filmmaker, the Seabiscuit and Pleasantville director again spins an entertaining yarn — with help from Olivia Milch (writer/director of the recent Netflix dramedy Dude) — and, along with 2016’s underrated Free State of Jones, continues his recovery from the sanitized violence of The Hunger Games with his lightest fare since the screenplay for Dave.
Smartly aligning itself with the opening frames of Soderbergh’s saga-starter, Ocean’s 8 finds Danny Ocean’s sister Debbie (Sandra Bullock) similarly sweet-talking a prison parole board with assurances of lessons learned. The character introduction continues with a breezily creative stretch of her conning her way into some new possessions and a hotel room.
The freshness is short-lived, however, as it gives way to such familiar but charming sequences as the ol’ “getting the crew together” number.
Though the planned heist of prized diamonds off the neck of Anne Hathaway-like Daphne Kluger (Hathaway herself) during the Met Gala strays significantly from a Danny production and it’s futile to make analogous comparisons to everyone’s roles from Soderbergh’s films, Debbie’s partner Lou (Cate Blanchett) reeks — largely pleasantly — of Pitt’s Rusty, and other character types occasionally sync up.
The alignments provide just enough connective tissue to its predecessors to remind viewers that they’re back in the same con comedy world, albeit one colored by Danny’s mysterious and apparently disputed death.
Helena Bonham Carter, Mindy Kaling, Sarah Paulson, Rihanna and Awkwafina round out the team — never mind the fuzzy math— and everyone is having a blast, none more so than Hathaway. The robbery itself also moves well, yet the job is one that relies a good deal on events that occur in the days following the event, an approach that strings out the trickery a bit too long.
The aftermath receives a needed boost from a hilarious James Corden as the insurance investigator assigned to the case, but happy as one would be to see this crew and new additions bridge the gap to 11, it would preferably be with someone more creative behind the camera.
Grade: B. Rated PG-13. Now playing at AMC Classic, Biltmore Grande and Carolina Cinemark
(Photo: Warner Bros.)