A few months before the release of the all-female version of “Ghostbusters” in 2016, Warner Bros. announced they were developing an “Ocean’s” reboot with a prominently female cast. The reason the film’s called “Ocean’s 8” (and not another “Ocean’s 11”) is that the studio hopes this can become another trilogy. The idea is to have an “Ocean’s 9” and “Ocean’s 10” down the line. However, after wading through “Ocean’s 8″ it’s tough to make a legit case for the need for even one sequel.
Sandra Bullock leads the ensemble as Debbie Ocean. She’s the sister of Danny Ocean, George Clooney’s character in his “Ocean’s” films. Clearly, with this “Oceans” voyage, it’s out with the old and in with the new. Just a few minutes into “Ocean’s 8”, we learn that Danny recently died (no spoiler, it’s in the trailer). Debbie, meantime, has just gotten out of prison.
She reunites with Lou (Cate Blanchett), quickly sucking old her friend into a plan to pull a major heist. The target? A $150-million necklace to be worn by actress Daphne Kluger (Anne Hathaway) at the upcoming Met Gala. Also part of Debbie’s crew are a fashion designer (Helena Bonham Carter), a mom (Sarah Paulson), a jewelry maker (Mindy Kaling), a hacker (Rihanna) and a street thief (Awkwafina).
Much like “American Animals”, another caper film in theaters now, “Ocean’s 8” takes awhile to get going. There’s way too much dull set-up. Things finally pick-up the at the Gala, and the heist itself is fairly interesting and well choreographed. The intentionally, old-fashioned editing and split-screen techniques are welcome, and there are a couple of notable moments tying into the timeliness of the film’s release. In this era of female empowerment, hearing the “Mary Tyler Moore” theme song “Love is All Around” during a scene in a Subway restaurant, and a dry, sarcastic speech Bullock gives just before the robbery gets underway, are highlights.
Out of the eight actresses in the core cast, Hathaway gets the most to do. And her self-absorbed, overly-dramatic diva is by far the most entertaining character. But ironically, in an “all female” reboot, it’s a male who steals the show. James Corden shows-up in the third act, in a key role, and delivers the first legitimately funny lines of the entire movie. His presence exposes the flat and uninspired writing of the other characters.
The biggest surprise of “Ocean’s 8” is its lack of complexity. It seems like the goal was to simply prove that this movie could be made with female stars, instead of trying to make a highly entertaining movie that happens to have female stars.
If there’s going to be a second wave in this series, that script needs to have a lot more bite. These women and this film simply play it too safe.
On The Official LCJ Report Card, “Ocean’s 8” gets a C+.
Running Time: 110 min.