Star-studded, all female cast carry on legacy of the slick, audience-friendly 'Ocean's' films

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The "Ocean's" films are a lark, an excuse for a bunch of stars to get together and let audiences bask in the utter spectacle of seeing them fill a screen. They're like one of those Hollywood Star Maps tours, except all of the movie stars are home and waving from their front porch. 

They're also pretty fun, because well-executed heist films push all the right buttons. As long as they can minimize the bloat -- that was the problem with "Ocean's 12" -- the formula of a bunch of big stars pulling off a caper is a winning one. 

Such is the case with "Ocean's 8," an entertaining all-female riff on the "Ocean's" blueprint with a highly decorated cast (three Oscar winners, an Emmy winner and an eight-time Grammy winner) taking down a major score. The film is slick, efficient and cruises right along, and is clever enough to stay a step or two ahead of the audience. If you're looking for much more, you won't find it. But why would you be looking for more from an "Ocean's" movie? 

Sandra Bullock leads the cast as Debbie Ocean, sister of Danny, whom George Clooney played in Steven Soderbergh's three "Ocean's" movies. Debbie is just getting out of prison as the movie opens, and Danny, we learn, has recently died under somewhat suspicious circumstances. (His death is never explained and no one seems to believe he's really dead, so don't rule him out for future "Ocean's" films.)

Not long after Debbie has hit the streets she's putting together a big job, and she first pulls in Lou (Cate Blanchett), who plays Brad Pitt to her Clooney. Debbie explains to Lou that she plans to steal a $150 million diamond necklace from the annual Met Gala, the swankiest of swank parties on the annual social calendar. Lou has her doubts. "Why do you need to do this?" she asks. "Because it's what I'm good at," Debbie replies. 

It's that simple. So Debbie and Lou start to assemble a crew comprised of Rose Weil (Helena Bonham Carter), a highfalutin but down-on-her-luck fashion designer; Amita (Mindy Kaling), a diamond expert; 8-Ball (Rihanna), who is described as "one of the best hackers on the East Coast" (side note: is there a competition for that title?); Tammy (Sarah Paulson), a former associate of Debbie's who now fences delivery trucks for kicks; and Constance (Nora "Awkwafina" Lum), a street grifter who pulls card tricks in the park. 

Their mark is Daphne Kluger (Anne Hathaway), an actress who will be attending the Gala. The plan is for Rose to design her outfit and to get Cartier to loan her the prize necklace, and then swipe it when the time is right, replacing it with an imitation. For their troubles, everyone walks away with a cool $16.5 million. 

Director Gary Ross, who helmed the first "Hunger Games" movie, as well as "Seabiscuit" and "Pleasantville," steers this ship in economical, fast-paced fashion. And he's faithful to Soderbergh's "Ocean's" trilogy, zipping along while Daniel Pemberton's loungy electronic score keeps things light and breezy. 

Outside of introductions, there isn't much time for character development; "Ocean's 8" is focused on the details of the heist. Hathaway's spoiled actress is given the most to chew on, and she's amusing as a pampered Hollywood star who's full of herself, desperate for attention and crippled with self-doubt. As a meta send-up of celebrity, Hathaway's performance is the film's example of an inside job. 

The heist itself is pulled off with precision, timed to the second, as each of the thieves fills her role on the team. The sense of risk, or danger, isn't as high as it's been in past films; a solid villain would have helped ramp up that tension, which is lacking here. (The closest we get is an insurance carrier played by James Corden, who is introduced after the robbery, and is on to the crew, but never poses much of a threat.)

The script, also by Ross (he co-wrote with Olivia Milch), is full of fast-talking con-speak; lines like "sometimes just knowing the job will work is enough, you don't have to do it" and "you do not run a job in a job!" sound like motivational sayings bank robbers might have pinned to their refrigerator. And when Debbie says "it's always the attention to detail and the little grace notes that make something sing," she might as well be talking about the movie. 

"Ocean's 8" has those grace notes; it won't linger in your memory, but it's a good time. It's a heist film that pulls off the job, recalling the spirit of the previous "Ocean's" films and carrying it forward in a new light. It succeeds not as a gimmick or a gender-flip of an already established concept, but on its own as a worthy successor to the franchise. As a lark, it's a pretty good one. 

agraham@detroitnews.com

(313) 222-2284

@grahamorama

 

'Ocean's 8'

GRADE: B

Rated PG-13: for language, drug use, and some suggestive content

Running time: 110 minutes

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