Clooney, Pitt and Pacino — how Ocean’s 13 saves the multiplex this month

It ends, pretty much, with fireworks and Sinatra, somewhat appropriate, you would think, for a film series that privileges Vegas cool over substance like the Oceans movies do.

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It ends, pretty much, with fireworks and Sinatra, somewhat appropriate, you would think, for a film series that privileges Vegas cool over substance like the Oceans movies do.

And that’s not a criticism, not by any means. Regular readers of this blog might have picked up recently on my gripes directed at this year’s batch of blockbusters — particularly Spiderman 3 and Pirates Of The Caribbean 3. The red mist has risen somewhat at the filmmakers’ risible attempts to bring gravitas and mythic stature to what, essentially, are 4-colour comic book characters or theme park rides.

Stephen Soderbergh‘s Oceans movies, thankfully, have never attempted to be anything other than gossamer-light brain candy: cool people in expensive clothes doing wonderful things in beautiful locations.

Chin, chin, and pass the olives.

There’s something incredibly refreshing about watching George Clooney and Brad Pitt, dressed to the hilt in retro-lounge wear, swanning round Vegas as they plan to rip-off Al Pacino‘s nasty casino owner. They’re clearly having a hoot, and at no point does anyone dwell on anything more profound than working out where the next Martini is coming from.

There’s a great scene in an earlier Oceans movie that finds George and Brad watching an episode of Happy Days dubbed into a foreign language. In what appears to be a natty bit of improvisation, they start to dissect the cultural relevance of dubbed Seventies’ sitcoms. You could, frankly, watch them do this kind of thing all day, such is the charming, easy-going cameraderie that passes between them. In fact, it would make a brilliant TV show in its own right: each week, George and Brad watch an episode of a classic sitcom in real time and their thoughts and observations are beamed into homes around the world. I’d watch it. Beats Orlando Bloom‘s rather bloodless attempts at swashing a buckle in Pirates any day.

There’s a comparable scene in Ocean’s Thirteen, where Brad walks into George’s hotel room to find him wiping a tear from his eye. Turns out, he’s watching Oprah on TV, and soon the two men — icons of contemporary cinematic cool, no less — are blubbing like babies as a particularly heartwrenching tale of human tragedy unfolds before their eyes on the television screen.

It’s these moments that make the Oceans movies. Sure there’s a plot, but I’m damned if I can remember a thing about it. It’s all about watching these people have fun, with a warmth that brings you into their orbit. If Ocean’s Twelve lacked the polish and wit of its predecessor, this is a return to the freewheeling fun of Soderbergh’s original. Pacino finds himself in one scene opposite both Andy Garcia, his Godfather 3 co-star and Ellen Barkin, who he played opposite in Sea Of Love. It’s a nice little movie joke touch, and one of the many things that adds to the warmth and humour of this movie.

Ocean’s Thirteen opens this Friday in the UK


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