Chapter Two: Ocean's 12
By Brett Beach
December 16, 2009
But then I made the mistake of actually becoming invested in one of the "characters": Lo. My god, it was like the resurrection of Dorothy Parker with some of her earlier appearances. She would come on, cut through the crap with a well-placed line, comment or insult, and then be gone, like that favorite aunt or uncle, you always hoped would visit more. Except you didn't really want them around all the time. They were there to spice things up on occasion and you needed to look forward to that. When Lo became a regular featured player and then moved in with Lauren and had to figure deeply into the plots somehow, it was like killing the goose that squawked the golden bon mots. I was done.
So was all this lead-up necessary? Am I going to confess Ocean's 12 as a guilty pleasure out of spite? I wish it were as easy as that. Having seen Ocean's 11 and 12 three times each now, I wish I was closer to a working definition of what I prefer about one over the other. Perhaps this column can help with that. I can with assurance state that I like Ocean's 13 the least of the three, to the extent it would be fair to characterize my reaction as dislike. The humor and tone of the third movie had an air of mean-spiritedness almost entirely absent from the first two. I am thinking foremost here of the characters played by Ellen Barkin and David Paymer and the indignities forced upon them by the screenplay in the spirit of laughs. Even if Paymer's final vindication brings a smile, it's too little, too late. Perhaps the key to my preference of 12 over 11 can be encapsulated in something as simple as the "and" portion of the closing credits. Or the manner in which Topher Grace "plays" himself in the respective films. Perhaps...
Closing credit from Ocean's 11: "And introducing Julia Roberts as Tess."
I caught Ocean's 11 on video the first time about a year after it was in the theaters and though I knew to take it in the form of pleasant, glossy piffle, it felt to me like it was working too hard to maintain its breezy, inconsequential tone. I appreciate the fact that for an "origin story" the film wastes almost no time in getting everyone assembled and on board to do the heist. It was a laid-back lark and fun and I certainly don't turn it down if it's offered as the evening's entertainment. The fault I find stems from its eagerness to be liked, like a puppy dog at the local animal shelter store who knows when potential owners have it in their line of sight. It has an over-earnest quality that detracts from the level of cool that the film should effortlessly peddle. This is most noticeable in the relationship between Danny and Tess. I never became convinced that they were believable as a couple, that he should or did need her back and that she should or would want him back.