Ocean's 8

Ocean’s 8 kicks off with a near mirror image to the opening scene of Ocean’s 11, except this time, instead of George Clooney talking to a parole board as Danny Ocean, it’s Sandra Bullock as Danny’s sister Debbie Ocean. Unlike Danny, Debbie says what she will do if she is released: “I would just want a simple life. I just want to hold down a job, make some friends, and pay my bills.”

But, much like her brother, she has no plans of eschewing her old thieving lifestyle and immediately shows her con artist skills while quickly stealing and lying her way back into a comfortable life. Much like her brother, she quickly brings together her team of capable con artists. Much like her brother, she has a solid plan on how to make some big bucks during her heist. And much like her brother, that heist has retaliation cooked into it.

As you can see, this movie is pretty much a tit-for-tat rehash of Ocean’s 11, except this time it’s with women, and instead of a Las Vegas casino, they’re hitting the Met Gala. This isn’t necessarily problematic since the first film’s formula led to a fun heist film; it’s just worth noting that screenwriters Gary Ross and Olivia Milch aren’t giving us anything fresh here. What is problematic is that Ross’ direction is not by any means as stylistically cool as Steven Soderbergh’s was.

Like Soderbergh, Ross is also working with a killer ensemble, but his direction and script never work well enough at letting the cast shine like the Cartier diamonds they’re attempting to steal. Besides Bullock’s Ocean, only a few of the actors have a chance to make their marks.

Cate Blanchett’s Lou takes the Brad Pitt role as the quick-witted, sexy, smart second-in-command. She plays the part flawlessly and, much like Pitt, looks good while doing it. Helena Bonham Carter gives a fair turn as an eccentric, not-all-there, has-been fashion designer. And then, surprisingly, given the fact that she isn’t a main part of Ocean’s team, the standout of the film is Anne Hathaway’s hilarious portrayal as actress Daphne Kluger. She hits all the right notes of being an over-the-top, my-way-or-the-highway actress. Even when she is puking her guts out, she is still able to make us laugh.

Sarah Paulson, Mindy Kaling, Rihanna, and Awkwafina all are there too and giving their best performances, but none of them have enough screen time to make a major impact on the viewer. I rarely say this, but I would’ve liked another 20 minutes or so if it had fleshed out these characters more.

What we do have, much like the original, is a smart heist that has some exciting twists and turns. It’s easy to see that Debbie is as capable, if not more so, than her brother is. But the film lacks a major factor that we had in the original film: There’s no one for us to root against as we did with Andy Garcia’s Terry Benedict. Sure, Debbie’s ex, Claude Becker (Richard Armitage), is put into this role, but he is so far removed from the heart of the heist that we don’t really have a reason to want them to steal the necklace because the only people it’s hurting are the seemingly congenial people at Cartier and their insurance investigator, played by James Corden.

Another of the biggest issues with the newest venture into the popular Ocean’s franchise lies within the heist itself. Early on in Ocean’s 8, Debbie Ocean says that she had run her heist plan over and over in her head during her time in prison. She mentions that by year three, it ran perfectly every single time. By year five, it was undoubtedly flawless. The issue is that it’s too polished. Everything goes off without a hitch, and in the end, perfection is boring.

Despite its issues with pacing, character development, direction, and lack of tension, Ocean’s 8 is a solid return to the franchise. The actors give fun and funny performances and all seem to gel with one another. For fans of the Ocean’s series, this film will fit right in with the rest and is honestly better than 12 and 13. It’s possible that with someone different at the helm, it could’ve even been better than 11. While we’re led to believe Danny Ocean, sadly, is dead, his movie franchise has been left in the very capable hands of his sister and her friends.

Cavan says: 3/5

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I travel. I eat. I drink. I meet. I record. I'm the Food & Drink Editor for NUVO and the co-creator and director of Indy's Table. I also host a weekly comedy podcast, Film Forecast and occasionally write about movies and television for NUVO.