That “Ocean’s 8” isn’t quiiiiite as much fun as “Ocean’s 11” most definitely isn’t the fault of the women in the stellar cast, who make up for any deficits in the movie's execution. Rating: 3 stars out of 4.
“Ocean’s 8” doesn’t shy from comparisons with its big brother, the 2001 George Clooney-led “Ocean’s 11” remake; in fact, it begins in exactly the same way. Debbie Ocean (Sandra Bullock), younger sister of Clooney’s Danny, gazes evenly at a parole board, mouth carefully pulled into an expression of remorse and newfound maturity, and explains earnestly that she just wants to get out and live a quiet, uneventful life. And, snap — she’s out of prison scrubs and into the sparkly cocktail dress in which she was arrested five years ago, strutting into the rising sun with a these-boots-were-made-for-walking brio; just like her brother once did in his tuxedo. Quiet? Not so much.
That “Ocean’s 8” isn’t quiiiiite as much fun as “Ocean’s 11” (a high bar, to be sure) most definitely isn’t the fault of Bullock and her Cheshire-cat smile, or of the miraculous crew that assembles around her for One Big Heist: Cate Blanchett, her voice as sharp as her cheekbones, as Debbie’s best pal; Anne Hathaway as a deliciously simpering diva; Mindy Kaling as a rogue jeweler; Sarah Paulson as a fence turned soccer mom (almost); Rihanna as a genius hacker known as Nine Ball (asked her real name, she deadpans, “Eight Ball”); Awkwafina as a fast-talking pickpocket; and Helena Bonham Carter as a dizzy fashion designer. All have come together with one goal: to rob the Met Ball — or, rather, to relieve one of its attendees of a $150 million diamond necklace.
It’s a plan that Debbie has spent the past five years hatching, and the tick-tock details of its preparation and execution make up the film’s two hours. But you wish director Gary Ross could have made things a little snappier; you can see how he’s aiming for the effortless breeze Steven Soderbergh achieved in “Ocean’s 11,” but it doesn’t come easily. There’s a little too much Met Ball celebrity-spotting, and not quite enough wit in the screenplay. (Why, oh why, is the hilarious Kaling given almost no opportunity to be funny?)
That said, the “Ocean’s 8” cast makes up for any deficits in its execution (Awkwafina, in particular, can make even the most mundane line funny); these women are just great fun to hang with, and I’d happily sit still for a slew of sequels. Every performance is a pleasure, particularly Hathaway’s hair-flinging love affair with her own reflection, and Bonham Carter’s softly Irish-accented ditherment. (Someone needs to make a movie in which Bonham Carter, wordlessly, spends the entire screen time in open-mouthed reaction.)
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And the array of outfits, by costume designer Sarah Edwards, not only looks great but tells us stories about their wearers. In the same way that “Ocean’s 11” reveled in the sharpness of the men’s very different styles and tailoring (a key scene even took place during a fitting), “Ocean’s 8” is a celebration of style, from Bonham Carter’s Edwardian-by-way-of-Edward-Gorey frocks to Blanchett’s velvet rock-star pantsuits. Debbie, in the opening scene, is transformed by her clothing, and much of the heist involves costume changes. Clothes, here, make the woman; and these women, in turn, make the movie.
★★★ “Ocean’s 8,” with Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett, Anne Hathaway, Mindy Kaling, Sarah Paulson, Awkwafina, Rihanna, Helena Bonham Carter, James Corden, Richard Armitage. Directed by Gary Ross, from a screenplay by Ross and Olivia Milch. 110 minutes. Rated PG-13 for language, drug use, and some suggestive content. Multiple theaters.