The movie “Ocean’s 8” has several things in common with the Ocean’s 11-13, inspired by the original 1960 film “Ocean’s 11.” They’re all amusing, character-driven caper films, populated with charismatic actors. They’re entertaining but won’t stay with you much longer than it takes you to find your car in the parking lot.
One thing “Ocean’s 8” (PG-13) doesn’t have is George Clooney. This is never a good thing, but understandable as this is an all-female Ocean’s movie. Debbie Ocean (Sandra Bullock) is Danny’s younger sister, who we meet as she’s promising the parole board that she just wants a legitimate job and quiet life. Leaving jail in the cocktail dress she was arrested in, she promptly shoplifts her way through Manhattan.
Debbie spent almost all her time in prison running scams and plotting a spectacular jewelery heist. She wants to steal a $150 million diamond necklace that is so legendary it has its own name, at the annual Metropolitan Museum of Art gala. To succeed of course, she needs a team.
The best part of the movie is meeting Debbie’s team. Cate Blanchett plays Lou, a friend from Debbie’s past, who we know is tough because her hair is really straight and she rides a motorcycle. Sarah Paulson is Tammy, a skilled fence who works out of her suburban garage while raising a family. Amita (Mindy Kaling) is a talented jeweler with family issues. Music superstar Rihanna plays an expert hacker named Nine Ball and Awkwafina plays a flavored beverage. Just kidding she is an adorable pickpocket. All are convinced rather easily to join the team. They barely consider the somewhat major risk of going to jail for a very long time. This seemed a bit odd since Tammy has children and a nice house and Amita has never done anything illegal.
In order for her plot to work, Debbie has to find a down-on-her-luck designer who can dress the Ball’s chairwoman, actress Daphne Kluger (Anne Hathaway). Bring on Rose Weil (Helena Bonham Carter) who owes a boatload of taxes and just tanked her comeback runway show. She’s desperate and broke. How convenient.
And here lies the problem with “Ocean’s 8.” Everything is too convenient and easy. While I enjoyed the plotting to get Rose together with Daphne, it’s a bit far-fetched to think a savvy actress would hire a washed-up designer for the biggest event of the year, just because she was jealous of another actress. Where were her stylist and publicist during this decision?
The gang needs a super-sophisticated 3D printer to make a zirconium copy of the necklace so Tammy scores one. They need someone deep inside Vogue Magazine, so Tammy walks into a job, starts that day. It’s VOGUE! If Tammy is this awesome, she probably doesn’t need a gang.
When there’s an issue with a magnetic clasp on the necklace, Nine Ball calls her sister who just happens to be a magnet expert and tells her exactly what to do in a phone call. The women ease their way into jobs at the gala, without so much as a background check. Then Debbie arranges for her sleazy art dealer ex to be Daphne’s date to the ball because poor gorgeous, famous Daphne can’t find her own man. It’s all fun to watch as long as you put your brain on hold, but you can cut the tension with a dull butter knife.
It would have been entertaining if the filmmakers had a bit more fun at the expense of the Gala guests. After the dig on celebrities early on, you’d think it would be easy. Instead we just see shots of stars like Katie Holmes and Heidi Klum looking fabulous next to gorgeous table settings. Maybe they’re being nice to the Met because the Met allowed the crew to film there. Fun fact: The Met Ball is staged as cameras are never allowed inside the event.
There’s no real nemesis in “Ocean’s 8.” The closest thing is a clever insurance investigator, (Talk Show Host James Corden, in fine form). He suspects Debbie, who he just happens to know from previous investigations but he’s never a threat.
Director Gary Ross (“Sea Biscuit” and “The Hunger Games”) gets terrific performances out of his very talented cast. It’s especially impressive with Rihanna, who hasn’t done much acting, and Bonham Carter, who for once, doesn’t overdue the crazy. Hathaway seems to be having fun as the spoiled actress. Paulson, Blanchett, Awkwafina and Kaling just don’t have enough to do. Bullock can do this kind of thing in her sleep. I enjoyed the humor more than the heist. If there’s an Ocean’s 9 or 7 or whatever, I hope we get more character development and less 3D printing.
Ocean’s 8 - 3 STARS