The big question with Ocean’s 8 was what was it going to do different to be more than just a female version of Ocean’s 11? Maybe that question stumped the filmmakers as well as Ocean’s 8 lacks much of the charm, wittiness and endlessly cool vibe of Steven Soderbergh’s series. Even with an amazingly talented and likable cast, this feels like a watered down knock-off that fails to truly make the most of its premise.
After taking the fall from her ex-partner, Debbie Ocean (Sandra Bullock, Gravity) is out of prison and ready for her next score. Just as smooth talking and quick-witted as her brother, Danny, Debbie quickly proves crime runs in the family.
In a weird decision, George Clooney’s Danny Ocean is dead (supposedly). There’s a bit of a running gag that Danny might not actually be dead, but it’s a little distracting as it sets up expectations of a last-minute cameo. The film probably would have been better served just saying he’s retired with Tess to explain his absence.
Debbie reunites with her old pal Lou (Cate Blanchett, Thor: Ragnarok) to pull off her big scheme. There definitely seems to be an attempt to capture that breezy dynamic Clooney and Brad Pitt made look so effortless. That’s one of the biggest mistakes of Ocean’s 8 as Bullock and Blanchett are way too talented to simply be asked to play Clooney and Pitt. It’s such a disservice to Bullock and Blanchett who easily could have done so much more with their characters.
The big score this time is a necklace valued at over $150 million. Debbie has a master plan in stealing it from actress Daphne Kluger (Anne Hathaway, Interstellar) at the Met Gala, but she’s going to need some help.
Debbie and Lou go on a recruitment run and land jewelry expert Amita (Mindy Kaling), designer Rose Weil (Helena Bonham Carter), hacker Nine Ball (Rihanna), pickpocket Constance (Awkwafina) and fencer Tammy (Sarah Paulson).
Robbing jewels at the Met Gala makes for a decent locale even if New York isn’t as stunning a backdrop as other locations in the franchise. The Met Gala is one of those elite of the elite parties so the film provides an inside look most regular folks will never see. And if it allows for cheap cameos from Kim Kardashian and sisters, Heidi Klum and Gigi & Bella Hadid all the better. Make no mistake, the Ocean’s 8 title is banking on enough interest to spark a new trilogy that ends coincidentally at 10. If that is the case, expect a much more exciting location.
Despite fewer characters the characters seem less developed in this one. That’s most evident in the final sequence when (slight spoiler) the crew is enjoying their hard-earned spoils. For the most part, none of the characters got just the basic development to explain their agenda and motivations once they secure their big payday.
Take a film like The Italian Job, which makes a point throughout the film to invest screen time into the crew’s plans post big score. When the gig is done and they’re celebrating we know what that means to them. The film needed a lot more scenes like the one where Carter and Kaling get a close up look at the necklace.
Hathaway has the best role with her low key spoof of a Hollywood star and Carter always makes the most of any of her screen time. Still, it seemed a little odd that James Corden, who arrives late in the film, gets some of the best lines and scenes.
Director/co-screenwriter Gary Ross (The Hunger Games) and screenwriter Olivia Milch hit all the required notes for a heist film. Yet, the film rarely feels like an Ocean’s film despite a few cameos from the old gang. The score is adequate, the pacing is breezy enough and the characters have enough charm to keep my interest, but something is missing.
Ocean’s 8 also suffers from the lack of a villain. In the Clooney-led Ocean’s installments there was always a character to root against. Debbie’s crew basically has to contend with a few outmatched security guards, which makes the heist feel way too easy. There’s little satisfaction or suspense that the crew can’t pull the job off. The closest in the way of adversaries is Debbie’s ex Claude Becker (Richard Armitage).
I thought the 2016 Ghostbusters got a bad rap from an ‘only us!’ mob mentality that couldn’t envision female Ghostbuters. Looking back, that film was far more daring and willing to take some risks from the earlier two films. Ocean’s 8 would have benefited from a little more willingness to find its own lane instead of just traveling down the same road as Danny and crew did earlier.
Rating: 5 out of 10
Photo Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures