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Review: 'Ocean's Twelve' high-spirited fun

Ensemble cast keeps complicated plot spinning

By Paul Clinton
For CNN.com

Ocean's Twelve
George Clooney and Brad Pitt size things up in "Ocean's Twelve."
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Brad Pitt
George Clooney
Julia Roberts

The miracle of "Ocean's Twelve" isn't just that it's a sequel every bit as good as the 2001 production. It's that producer Jerry Weintraub was able to get some of the biggest stars in the industry -- and Academy Award-winning director Steven Soderbergh -- to clear their schedules for a 77-day shoot in Europe.

Also, according to reports, there wasn't an out-of-control, full-blown ego in sight. Now, that's a miracle.

"Ocean's Twelve" is a fun-filled, mind-twisting romp featuring a cast that obviously had just as much fun making the film as the audience does watching it -- and that may explain why all the actors were available. (Not that there's anything wrong with making a few million dollars while on an action-packed European vacation, of course.)

The whole gang is back: George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Julia Roberts, Andy Garcia, Don Cheadle, Bernie Mac, Casey Affleck, Scott Caan, Shaobo Qin, Eddie Jemison, Carl Reiner and Elliott Gould. Additions to the cast include Catherine Zeta-Jones, Vincent Cassel, Robbie Coltrane, Cherry Jones and Eddie Izzard. Talk about an embarrassment of riches.

This time around casino owner Terry Benedict (Garcia) has tracked down the boys who are now trying to go legit after successfully stealing $160 million from Benedict's Las Vegas hotel.

The opening of the film is a fast-paced montage. One by one Benedict finds the gang members -- now scattered around the world -- and makes them an offer they can't refuse. They have two weeks to pay him back -- with interest -- or they're gonna swim with the fishes.

Mo' money

This presents a bit of a problem. Danny Ocean (Clooney), now remarried to Tess (Roberts), is broke. Rusty Ryan (Pitt), now a West Hollywood hotel owner, isn't doing much better financially. The rest of the boys still have various amounts of their ill-gotten gains, but nobody has the full payment.

Soon they're all reunited in a desperate effort to come up with a scam rich enough to pay off their debt. Too hot to operate in the States, they decide to head off to Europe to pull a new job.

Ocean's Twelve
Brad Pitt's character, Rusty Ryan, has a relationship with Isabel Lahiri (Catherine Zeta-Jones).

But things get real complicated, real fast, when they become embroiled in an "I'm better than you are" competition with Europe's most successful thief, the Night Fox, played by Cassel. Moreover, the Night Fox is being pursued by Isabel Lahiri (Zeta-Jones), an investigator who's had a previous romantic run-in with Rusty.

That's the set-up, and the rest of the film -- featuring a nicely crafted script by George Nolfi -- is an elaborate con within a con within a con, offering one red herring after another which keeps you guessing until the final, very satisfying, conclusion.

Soderbergh, as usual, makes the most of his outstanding cast, and this time out he's got beautiful European locations as a lush canvas against which he can set his story. From Amsterdam to Paris, to Monte Carlo and Lake Como, to Rome and Sicily, the locations in this film become additional characters and add a wonderful style to the whole production.

OK, so it's far from deep. But "Ocean's Twelve" is nevertheless the best ensemble film of the year. All the actors are incredibly generous to one another, and they work together like the finely honed gears of a well-polished machine.

Like a family

It's no wonder: In addition to having been together in "Ocean's Eleven," Clooney, Roberts and Cheadle have each made four films with Soderbergh. Zeta-Jones worked with Soderbergh in "Traffic," and she starred with Clooney in "Intolerable Cruelty." The result almost has the feeling of a family reunion.

Plus, Clooney and Pitt have the best male chemistry since Paul Newman and Robert Redford.

Zeta-Jones may be many things, but shy is not one of them. The sexually charged actress dominates the screen every time she takes a breath. Roberts, also fine, has a lot more to do this time around and her comedic talents are on full display.

In Soderbergh, the cast has one of the most gifted filmmakers in the world (hey, I'm willing to forget "Solaris" if you are). In addition to directing he's also his own cameraman and editor. This gives him a sense of freedom -- and perspective -- enjoyed by few others in the business.

"Ocean's Twelve" may not be on anyone's short list for an Academy Award, but it is a splendid cinematic ride that will leave you feeling giddy and wishing for more.


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