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Movie review: The all-female cast is fun, but 'Ocean's 8' feels a bit too by the book

POSTED June 8, 2018 4:29 a.m.
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“OCEAN'S 8” — 3 stars — Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett, Helena Bonham Carter, Rihanna, Mindy Kaling; PG-13 (language, drug use and some suggestive content); in general release

The numbers are just about right. If Steven Soderbergh’s 2001 "Ocean's Eleven" rates an 11, Gary Ross’s brand-new spinoff, "Ocean's 8," rates about an 8.

“Ocean’s 8” is the new ladies-only interpretation of the George Clooney and Brad Pitt trilogy franchise from a few years ago, which was inspired by the original Rat Pack film from 1960. The story follows an ex-con named Debbie Ocean (Sandra Bullock) who puts together an elaborate, record-setting jewel heist.

Debbie is a like-minded sister to Clooney’s character from the other films, and we’re introduced to her as she’s applying for parole at the tail end of a five-year stint in prison. Where other inmates earn college degrees, Debbie has spent her time putting together a plan to steal a 6-pound diamond necklace named the Toussaint, which is valued at $150 million.

To snag the necklace, she enlists the help of her best friend Lou (Cate Blanchett), who has been killing time watering down the vodka sold at her nightclub. Those two, in turn, recruit a team of specialists based on the needs of the plan.

Rose Weil (Helena Bonham Carter) is a fashion designer in heavy debt to the IRS, Nine Ball (Rihanna) is a tech guru, Amita (Mindy Kaling) is an expert jeweler and Constance (Awkwafina) is a fleet-fingered pickpocket who is happy to get a break from sidewalk three-card Monte schemes. Tammy (Sarah Paulson) has gone domestic on outward appearances, but a tour through her suburban garage reveals that she’s still one of the best fences in the game.

The goal is to snatch the necklace during the exclusive gala at the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the unwitting mark is a socialite named Daphne Kluger (Anne Hathaway), who should be wearing the Toussaint if everything goes according to plan. Then of course, there’s a side story about Debbie’s former associate Claude (Richard Armitage), a partner-in-crime right up until he spilled enough info on Debbie to get her that five-year prison sentence.

From here, “Ocean’s 8” unfolds about like any of the other previous “Ocean’s” films, which is good news and bad news. It’s fun to watch the elaborate machinations of the plan and the plot, which — as usual — isn’t quite over until it’s over, and the Daniel Pemberton score will make fans of the Soderbergh movies feel right at home.

At the same time, “Ocean’s 8” feels a little too by the book, lacks Soderbergh’s signature feel, and in spite of a truly stellar cast, the chemistry never quite hits the same groove as the other movies. Ross’ movie seems to be satisfied with the simple idea of going with an all-female cast and just leaves it at that when the presence of Bullock and Blanchett hinted at so much more potential.

The result, then, will depend on your expectations. If you’re up for a modest caper with some appealing familiar faces, “Ocean’s 8” should be a perfectly satisfying 110 minutes. If you were hoping that the all-female cast would signal a truly unique film experience, you’ll probably be disappointed.

“Ocean's 8” is rated PG-13 for language, drug use, and some suggestive content; running time: 110 minutes.

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