In defense of: Ocean’s 12

12Ask most people about the middle film in the Ocean’s trilogy and you’ll get a response along the lines of, “Oh, I didn’t like that one” or “No, that was too silly.”

But I think that “Ocean’s 12” is the best of the three movies, an opinion a find that I share, for some strange reason, with only a handful of people.

Freed from the sentimental nods to the original in the first film and not yet inured to the desperate cash-grab feeling of the third, “Ocean’s 12” represents the best of what director Steven Soderbergh set out to do with these movies – create a larky, mainstream caper film that’s not afraid to take itself (or its cast) too seriously.

Yet this went over like a lead balloon with the general public, and even worse with the critical cognoscenti, who trashed the film for being too complex. Imagine that! A film that challenges its audience? No thank you!

Now even I can admit that the plot is merely a perfunctory device to get our cast involved in all sort of international hijinx, and that’s fine. Did you really think there was going to be some true danger that George Clooney and Brad Pitt couldn’t get their way out of?

No, this film is all about atmosphere and dialogue, and it delivers in spades.

From the sultry opening to David Holmes’ jazzy score to the over-the-top finale, Soderbergh’s simple goal is high-level, escapist entertainment. In my opinion, the best part of the “Ocean’s” flicks is the rapport the cast has with each other, and here, you get to see Clooney and Pitt play off each other with an unbridled energy, not to mention strong supporting roles from the rest of the gang.

This is highlighted during the “con” scene, where Don Cheadle, Casey Affleck and Scott Caan fire off all the potential plans to steal a Faberge egg from an Italian museum. Something about the snappy, rapid-fire banter here, combined with the ridiculousness of the names (Hell in a Handbasket, Smuggler’s Paradise, Crazy Larry), gets me every time.

And yes, I know everyone hated Julia Roberts’ scenes (she drove me crazy in the first one as well), but I actually think she’s better in this one, because she’s pretending to be Julia Roberts and not wet-blanket Tess in the movie’s world.

Plus, Matt Damon is the series’ most underrated player, and his performance as “Glenn Snackwell” when meeting with Bruce Willis is hilarious.

I haven’t seen “Ocean’s 11” in eons, and I don’t plan on watching “Ocean’s 13” anytime soon (a giant drill?), but whenever I catch “Ocean’s 12” on the tube, I’m in. You should give it another chance.

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~ by Elliott on October 21, 2009.

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