It’s not often my wife and I get to catch a movie together — thanks to a busy life with three small children1. Even when we do have the time and inclination, finding something we both actually want to watch is really hard thanks to the endless stream of superhero franchises that really should have been put out to pastures years ago.
As a fan of Soderbergh’s original, I approached this latest reboot with a degree of skepticism. My reticence, in part, was due to the mediocre reviews it’s received — then Sandra Bullock and Cate Blanchett made it about gender, calling out the imbalance among leading film critics.
After the Ghostbusters reboot disaster, I thought perhaps that Bullock and Blanchett might have a point. Perhaps, critics were judging more on gender than the film’s merit.
Having now seen the film, I can concur with some of what the critics said — and it has nothing to do with the internal plumbing of Debbie Ocean’s team of crooks.
In all, I enjoyed the film, but it lacked the originality and sophistication of Soderbergh’s Ocean’s 11. Granted, Ocean’s 11 was itself a remake.
The ensemble cast was the high point of the film and really, they made it better viewing than it was destined to be. Bullock and Blanchett do their characters justice and are great to watch together, making the pedestrian dialogue sound better than it is. Plenty of credit goes Mindy Kaling and Rihanna, as Amiti and Nine Ball, two characters I really enjoyed.
In addition to the main cast, James Corden was a welcome presence, picking up the otherwise flat third act. Richard Armitage’s part however felt like stage dressing; his character arc was weak and that in turn made Debbie Ocean’s motivation seem trite and petty.
The heist, around which the plot hangs, was dull and predictable. The twist involving Anne Hathway’s character was just silly. The film also lacked a lot of the subtle plot-points a good heist movie uses to tease and foreshadow possibilities. The heist itself was also far too easy and without any significant hurdles and so the conflict fizzles out in the end.
The film makes the point several times that this flawless execution was down to Debbie’s masterful planning while in prison. I get what they were trying to do, but with no cockups or problems, the characters weren’t allowed to show individual or team ingenuity — they just followed the plan and the universe obliged.
To be honest, I’d have preferred it wasn’t a reboot of the Soderbergh’s film. Without the baggage and the expectation, I think I would have liked it better. Eliminate the references to the original — and its use to build Debbie’s character — would have left much more room to develop the character’s better.
So, I enjoyed it. It was a nice way to pass a couple of hours with my wife, sans screaming kids — but I don’t think I’ll rush out to see the inevitable sequel.
Shout out to my mother-in-law for babysitting for the evening. ↩
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