Career criminal Danny Ocean isn't one to waste time. Only minutes after getting paroled, he's off recruiting a gang to pull off the most ambitious casino heist ever: stealing over $160 million from three of Las Vegas' biggest casinos. This is the basis for Ocean's Eleven, a star-studded remake of the 1960 film starring Frank Sinatra and the Rat Pack. This time around, George Clooney assumes the role of the suave title character, while his crew of eleven features Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Casey Affleck, Scott Caan, and Don Cheadle, among others. Complicating matters are an estranged ex-wife (Julia Roberts) and a casino honcho (Andy Garcia) determined to protect his turf.
The biggest (and most obvious) thing Ocean's Eleven has going for it is the cast. With an impressive roster of Hollywood names, the sheer number of celebrities is enough to grab your attention. After their respective turns in O Brother, Where Art Thou? and The Mexican, George Clooney and Brad Pitt continue to prove their flair for comedy. Meanwhile, just about everyone else contributes positively in what little time they may have in front of the camera: Elliott Gould brings a humorous dose of disturbing flamboyance as a local, kingpin-ish figure; Matt Damon plays up the youth angle as a skilled but clueless rookie; Bernie Mac, Scott Caan, and Casey Affleck throw in bits of comic relief; and Julia Roberts stands around and looks pretty as the only female in sight. Sticking out like a sore thumb, though, is Don Cheadle, who puts on an annoyingly thick English accent for no apparent reason. You ARE the weakest link--goodbye!
With such a strong cast, the glamorous Las Vegas locales, and the insane plot of knocking off the Bellagio, the Mirage, and the MGM Grand, one would expect a hip, stylish crime caper with loads of suspense and thrills. What a surprise to find, then, that Ocean's Eleven is amazingly devoid of such elements. There's none of the Mission: Impossible-type close calls you'd expect from breaking into a virtual fortress of security, nor are there many edge of your seat thrills typical of heist flicks. Instead, there's a certain sterile politeness with which Ocean's crew makes away with the Bellagio's loot--and it's all paced a little too slowly to fit the material.
Dragging things down further into the pit of mediocrity are the stars who aren't part of Ocean's gang. As the suit in charge of casino security, Andy Garcia is one of the most boring villains ever, playing it cool to the point of comatose. He can't seem to shake the image of a cardboard cut-out for even a minute. Meanwhile, Julia Roberts is completely wasted as the object of affection of both Garcia and Clooney. And when I say object, I mean it in the most literal sense of the word: her character is strictly trophy girlfriend, and whoever gets her by the end of the movie wins. The love triangle offers weak chemistry, paling in comparison to even the understated criminal loyalty between Clooney and Pitt.
In the movie's defense, there are enough laughs to keep the entertainment value at a comfortable level. Fun but forgettable, Ocean's Eleven stays north of average by virtue of a charismatic cast, and its straightforward goal to keep things light.
Rating: 6 out of 10 (0=Abysmal, 5=Average, 10=Excellent)