"Ocean's Eleven" Review
© 2001 Fontaine L.

There is a scene not 10 minutes into the film that epitomizes what "Ocean's Eleven" is about. Brad Pitt's character is at a poker game, and the camera cheekily focuses on each of his opponents, revealing them to be Charmed's Holly Marie Combs, Dawson's Creek's Joshua Jackson, That 70's Show's Topher Grace, and Once and Again's Shane West, all teenage movie star wannabes. At the same time, the film pokes fun at Brad Pitt's own "Teen Beat" looks and his Seventeen magazine cover boy past. This is what "Ocean's Eleven" is to me. Witty, but mostly flashy and glamorous.

Which is probably why I had such a hard time coming up with things to say about this movie. It's entertaining but not memorable, it's competently filmed but not revelatory. Much like Erin Brockovich, but that's a different movie review entirely. But as Richard Schickel of Time Magazine writes (about Behind Enemy Lines), perhaps we should just be thankful for a well made Hollywood film, something that is all too rare nowadays. And "Ocean's 11" is well made. It moves along at a tight, entertaining pace, and it keeps us intrigued without making the conclusion too obvious. It's guilty of pussyfooting around some plot twists, but that doesn't distract too much from the final result. The star-studded cast certainly doesn't hurt either, as we can find no one that is in the movie simply for an extended, glorified cameo. George Clooney charms as the mastermind with the heart of gold, and Brad Pitt is at his sarcastic, magnetic Fight Club best. Matt Damon makes too brief an appearance in another geeky, antiheroic character, and the others--I couldn't be expected to go through all eleven--are exceptional in their roles as well. It's like the old Mission: Impossibles with twice the fun. One exception is Julia Roberts's Tess Ocean. Julia is luminous as usual and perfect for the role as the girl with Danny's heart in her hand, but the role is flatly drawn, present as nothing more than a plot device, a waste of Julia's screen presence. The band of thieves work well with the film's special effects at best, at worst the actors prove to have impeccable comic timing. They're ambitious but not entirely meticulous planners. They're not smooth, high-tech spies but a band of bumbling, hastily put together small-time crooks. Which is precisely what makes them endearing to the audience. Las Vegas is dazzlingly shot, the actors hit on all the right notes, and Steven Soderberg inserts just enough clever moments like the aforementioned poker game scene and a scene where a would-be 80's casino robber is shot to death to the tune of "Take My Breath Away."

All in all, "Ocean's Eleven" is an amusing heist flick for a winter afternoon matinee, like The Thomas Crown Affair. We cheer for the thieves because the film casts Andy Garcia in a villainous light, as Thomas Crown does with the incompetent police force. The bumbling "good guys" win in the end, however improbably and illogically (oh c'mon, you didn't really think they'd cast Brad, Julia, George, Matt, and Andy just to have them all fail, did you?). It's light cotton candy fare for those who are so inclined.

Rating: B (First viewing, 12/20/01)