|Ocean's Eleven (2001)
Starring: George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Julia Roberts, Andy Garcia, Matt Damon, Bernie Mac
When word leaked that It director Steven Soderbergh and his buddy George Clooney were planning a remake of the Rat Pack flick "Ocean's Eleven," two things happened. First, a whole mess of A-list actors, and other assorted friends of Soderbergh (ahem, Don Cheadle), wanted in and agreed to work for scale, which was unheard of. Second, everyone else said, "What the hell are they thinking? The original wasn't that good in the first place."
While that may be true, this latest model of "Ocean's Eleven" is a lot of fun. It may be empty, superficial fluff, but it's fun fluff. Score another hit for Soderbergh. And to think, he was almost run out of town right before he made "Out of Sight." These days, the man is bulletproof.
Clooney plays Danny Ocean, a freshly sprung con who assembles his old group of fellow hoodlums (Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Bernie Mac, Cheadle, Casey Affleck, Scott Caan and Carl Reiner, to name but a few) to pull an unprecedented heist: three casinos on the Vegas strip, at the same time. Ocean is not just after the money, it seems. The man who owns all three casinos, Terry Benedict (Andy Garcia), is dating Ocean's ex-wife Tess (Julia Roberts). Ocean just wants to hit him where it hurts. But it's going to take a ridiculous amount of skill, and even more luck.
The setup and the execution of the movie are so well done that it winds up exposing the movie for what it is: an exercise in style over substance. Which is not to say Ted Griffin's script is dumb; far from it. But anyone who doesn't know how this movie is going to end after the first five minutes is a vegetable. Sure, there is a lot of peppery dialogue, but it's sorely lacking in tension.
But the real question is: Did Tess really need to be played by Julia Roberts? She was not necessary in any way, shape or form to the success of this movie. Her part was little more than window dressing, and while she's Queen of Hollywood, will it really goose the box office take that much? It was the best example of stunt casting since "The Talented Mr. Ripley" (Cate Blanchett). Also, what exactly possessed Don Cheadle to play a Brit? And then, of course, there's Andy Garcia, who has a preternatural gift for screwing up even good movies. Luckily, he was on a tight leash, thank you, Mr. Soderbergh.
But never mind all that. We're not talking about reinventing the genre here. This is just a Big Mac and fries of a movie, and those movies, like the food, can hit the spot sometimes, especially when you're hung over. "Ocean's Eleven" is comfort food. Nothing more, nothing less.