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Pitt Stop: Unexpected car trouble can't slow down Brad Pitt in breezy action sequel 'Ocean's Twelve.'

Caper

'Ocean's Twelve' makes the case for the nonmovie

By Richard von Busack

THE SEQUEL to the hit Ocean's Eleven is based on a sensible idea: Forget the movie, let's go straight to the junket. The heist scenes in Ocean's Twelve are perfunctory—a building-lifting hydraulic jack that had more drama when I saw it on PBS' This Old House and a pleasurable but too-long scene of a dancing thief pirouetting between probing laser beams in a soon-to-be-poorer museum. As on a junket, the pleasures of celebrity are contrasted with indebtedness. Ocean and his gang are tracked down and have to pay back the money they took in the Bellagio heist in Las Vegas; being too hot to work in the United States, they go to Europe—to the real Bellagio, or nearabouts, since a few of the scenes take place at Lake Como.

If only we got to see more of Europe. Directors probably are right to avoid landscape photography. They don't want to turn their movies into oil paintings. Yet inclusion of the view is what discerns an adventure movie from an action movie. For example, that homage to the landscapes and sunsets in the 007 films turned into that instant in The Incredibles when Mr. Incredible pauses to admire the view of the volcanic island from his window. Director Steven Soderbergh's glancing, never-serious film is more entranced with the celebrities than with the locations in Amsterdam, Rome and the famous lake. The movie is so breezy it never gets a chance to see where it is. It's as if Soderbergh forgot that the best moment in Ocean's Eleven was the group of robbers stopping to watch the fountain.

Sporadic moments of delicious foolery bust out, like a three-way bit with Julia Roberts, a Special Guest Star and Carl Reiner, the latter using that comic "Cherman" dialect joke that's served Reiner so well for 50 years. The bits include Matt Damon's Linus (obviously, a Peanuts joke) trying to assert himself as a grown-up and getting put back in the juvenile's class. He is escorted back to his place by Cherry Jones, doing a riff on Jodie Foster in The Silence of the Lambs. She has what will unfortunately be an unsung funny moment: threatening Linus with prison, a threat that gets so elaborate it turns existentialist. The opening sequence is also a briskly tasty bit: an escape through a window by Brad Pitt's Rusty Ryan. Incidentally, Rusty's first name is revealed as "Robert." Brad Pitt as Robert Ryan—yeah, sure, and Gwen Stefani is Marilyn Monroe.

As in a junket, there's not enough time to visit the local landscape, but there is plenty of time to hear inside-joke jesting and see the stars slightly disheveled: Clooney's Danny Ocean fretting over his age, the minor scandal of Julia Roberts' hair being out of place. Soderbergh leaches some of the swagger out of Catherine Zeta-Jones; she has a softer, peek-a-boo hairstyle and she seems more girlish and interesting than she has in years. Ocean's Twelve is so clearly not overcooked, as National Treasure is, that audiences might not mind consuming it half-baked as it is.


Ocean's Twelve (PG-13; 130 min.), directed by Steven Soderbergh, written by George Nolfi, photographed by Chris Connier and Soderbergh and starring George Clooney, Brad Pitt and Julia Roberts, opens Friday valleywide.


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From the December 8-14, 2004 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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