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Recipe for success: an all-star cast provides the right ingredients to rescue the shoddy plot of Ocean's Thirteen.

Meringue is easy. You simply take two ingredients, egg whites and sugar, mix them together with a modicum of effort, and as long as you maintain a measure of focus, the end result is usually pleasing. Ocean's Thirteen, the new heist sequel from the Steven Soderbergh-George Clooney partnership, is likewise easy. It has simple ingredients--a great location and beautiful cast chief among them--and with the accomplished Soderbergh focusing behind the lens the result is fairly pleasing.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

One is always in danger of over-describing the plot of one of the Ocean's films lest you spend more time on your description than it took the writers to craft the script in the first place. While this sounds like a rebuke, it's not, really; when the films work, it is because they have a ridiculously relaxed approach to the craft of filmmaking. As the film begins, Danny Ocean (George Clooney), our gang's fearless leader and only member to evidently have a last name, is called into "service" again, this time to avenge a wrong done to elder gang statesman Reuben (Elliott Gould). And if there is one thing movie thieves have, it is honour amongst themselves (real thieves--not so much). Turns out there's a new super-creep in Vegas with the great handle Willy Bank (Al Pacino), who's swindled Reuben out of several acres of prime property on the strip in which to erect a gaudy--even by Vegas standards--monument to himself called, suitably, The Bank.

Sounds like it's time for Danny to dust off the old tuxedo, don a Gucci suit or two and round up the ol' gang. First Rusty (Brad Pitt) arrives; he was already wearing his Gucci suit, complete with rakish open collar. Then Linus (Matt Damon), Basher (Don Cheadle, who thankfully eases up on the cockney accent) and the rest--Bernie Mac, Carl Reiner, Casey Affleck, Scott Caan and acrobat Shaobo Qin. A credulity-straining plan is hatched which involves loaded dice, the massive excavator that dug the Chunnel, bedbugs and seismology. Suffice it to say Pacino never had a chance.

To offer a serious critique of the acting in this film is like a food critic commenting on the exact doneness of the bacon in a double cheeseburger--focus on whether you are enjoying the exercise, not whether you should be enjoying the exercise. In this regard, Clooney is simultaneously disturbingly smug and difficult not to like. He's no Cary Grant, but his impish grin seemingly laughs, "Who ever said I was?" while cashing eight-figure cheques. It is clear that Clooney oozes charm, which only means that he is both charming and that he oozes--a fine line that he alone seems able to tread.

More reliable is the goofy Pitt, who seems to demand that his Rusty is always featured stuffing food in his mouth to show us that he is not some impossibly good looking demigod, but a normal guy like us. Brad, even when eating an entire box of Twinkies with one hand, you are not a normal guy. Just ask my and every other wife in the audience. The two unexpected surprises come from Pacino and his long-ago Sea of Love co-star, Ellen Barkin, who plays his right-hand woman Abigail Sponder. Pacino, who since getting an undeserved Oscar for his corn pone-turned Scent of a Woman, has generally switched from acting to yelling and takes a rare understated stance with Bank; the results are entirely in keeping with the film's laid-back vibe. Barkin, in retirement for the past decade to star as the trophy wife of magnate Ron Perelman, may just be turning into a North American Sophia Loren as she delivers a sexy performance that causes one to forget that Julia what's-her-name is nowhere to be found.

In the end, the movie is ill-conceived and full of logical potholes that would derail lesser stars, but that is like critiquing the bacon. To spend a few hours with Clooney's gang is to be in the company of the cool cats and lose yourself to the hedonistic pursuit of hipsterism above all else. Easy and pretty good, just like meringue.
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Title Annotation:MOVIES
Author:McLennan, Neal
Publication:Western Standard
Date:Jul 2, 2007
Words:682
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