There is a common maxim in Hollywood that a sequel will probably make 50 – 70% of the money the original made. This is why a huge hit is almost always guaranteed to spawn a sequel.
'Ocean's 11' was a fun, glittery romp through Vegas featuring a huge list of stars. The film made a lot of money and all of the A-List celebrities had a great time making the film with director Steven Soderbergh. A sequel was inevitable.
'Ocean's 12' is about 50 – 70% as good as the original. If this is good enough for you, please purchase your DVD through Amazon or rent through Netflix. It isn't good enough for me.
All of the stars are back and Catherine Zeta-Jones has joined the crew for their new romp, this time, through Europe. Terry Benedict (Andy Garcia), the mark in '11', wants his money back. He searches out each of the people in Danny Ocean's (George Clooney) troupe and threatens them into returning his money, with interest. Rusty (Brad Pitt) and Danny gather the gang to figure out who or what they can rob. Everyone is back, because everyone owes money to Benedict. Linus (Matt Damon) remarks that they are too hot to pull any jobs in the US and the kind of money they need means a big job. They head to Europe. Amsterdam. Rusty has his eye on a reclusive mark who owns the original stock certificate of the Dutch Trading Company. The mark is extremely paranoid of being robbed, so his house is safe. Or is it… Oh, let's face it, with the A-List stars assembled for '12', you probably aren't there to see a great story. Unfortunately, the filmmakers seem to have realized this as well.
Let's set aside the implausibilities in the screenplay for a moment. George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Julia Roberts, Don Cheadle, Bernie Mac, Carl Reiner, Elliot Gould and all of the rest are back. They are pretty much the same characters they were in the previous film. They like each other. They don't take anything too seriously. They are ready to have some fun and they know they will win. This isn't really a film about performances either. Julia Roberts' character, Tess Ocean, actually impersonates a pregnant Julia Roberts in one scene. It's this kind of wink, wink fun that made the first film such fun. It also captured the spirit of the original starring Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr. perfectly. While making the original, the Rat Pack performed concerts at nightclubs, gambled and then shot the film, in that order.
Unfortunately, because the caper stuff is practically non-existent and we know that nothing will ever truly affect any of the stars of '12', we have to like the Wink Wink Nudge Nudge stuff they concoct in order for the film to be a success. The previously mentioned bit about Julia Roberts playing herself is amusing, for a few moments, but it wears thin very quickly. Clooney is very cool and aloof. Nothing, I repeat nothing, ever seems to be giving him the upper hand or causing him to lose any sleep. Pitt is a mirror image of Clooney. They did add a little wrinkle for his character. He has had a relationship with Zeta-Jone's international cop. This seems to be the central relationship in the film and it work's ok, but it also highlights the fact that nothing else is going on with the rest of the cast.
Let's address the screenplay for a moment. The film is filled with the most ridiculous implausibilities. Naturally, the first thing you should do if you are trying to keep a low profile is to purchase a well-known hotel, on the Sunset Strip, in West Hollywood, which is frequented by television and movie stars. Pitt's character, Rusty. does this. It also leads to one of the funniest lines in the entire film.
The story is convoluted and filled with some of the most ludicrous plans I have ever seen. This would be completely acceptable if there were anything new going on as well. Instead, we get to watch the pretty actors on their European holiday.
For long periods of time, many of the b-level characters simply disappear. Conveniently, they are locked up, allowing the few who are free to bring Robert's character into the action.
Also, there is a rather pathetic attempt to make Zeta-Jones' character more dramatic. The subplot is so wane that it appears to have been tacked on, at the last minute. The only good thing about this aspect of the story is to watch one of the actors involved, but it doesn't come until the very end.
"Ocean's 12" is barely acceptable because everyone is clearly enjoying themselves. Would I rather watch a bad film in which everyone is enjoying themselves or a bad film in which everyone appears miserable? I'll take the former.
Much like "11", the sequel uses a lot of locations and this adds a bit to the polished look of the film. First in Amsterdam, then Rome, the film moves around with a wild abandon, again, paying little attention to the story.
Perhaps the most disappointing aspect of "12" is that the director, Soderbergh, displays very little of the cinematic flair he is known for. In his earliest films, he presented the story in an almost Cubist way. Little bits of the narrative would be jumbled up, or there would be small shifts between the dialogue and the actual scene we were watching. For instance, in "Out of Sight", Clooney's character is talking to someone on the phone, off screen, as we watch he and Jennifer Lopez share dinner on screen. It is an interesting and effective way to speed up the action and enrich the story. As Soderbergh has gained more and more acclaim, and made films with bigger and bigger budgets, he seems to be slowly abandoning this style. There was a little of it in "Erin Brockovich" and in "Ocean's 11". There is almost none of it in "12". Instead, "12" is a fairly standard-looking big budget Hollywood film. Unfortunately, Soderbergh appears to be selling out.
I have nothing against a bunch of great looking rich people having fun while they work. But should we pay for the pleasure of watching it as well?