Ocean’s Thirteen is a movie about how sweet it is to be a movie star.
Is that wrong? Do movies owe us more than star-struck voyeurism? Can a story be told just for the sake of watching thirteen famous people stroll through it?
Consider this: this summer (2007) there will be no less than five major motion pictures released which are (grammar-sticklers avert your delicate gaze…) “three-quels”. This is to say nothing of sequels, pre-quels, re-makes, knock-offs, re-hashes and movies that were just plain bad from the get-go. Hollywood cares bubkes for whether movies have anything new to say (let alone anything worth saying). And this is fine by me. After all, Hollywood is a business-model, not an ideology. So why shouldn’t a studio pay movie stars to make masturbatory movies?
I sound like I’m winding up to be the Martin Luther of the studio-system, but my question is really more of an answer than it is a howl of protest. Ocean’s Thirteen is witty, it’s enjoyable, it’s crammed with more beautiful people than a year’s worth of Vogue and it wants nothing more of its audience than for us to lay back and let the professionals do the work. The plot is the same as the first two Ocean movies: George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon and the other less famous/used to be famous/friends of Steven Soderbergh/female members of the cast need to steal something, so they do.
Plot, schmot, as the Rabbi would say.
Ocean’s Thirteen isn’t about telling a story, it’s about George Clooney and Brad Pitt dressed as janitors, it’s about Matt Damon wearing a fake nose, it’s about Don Cheadle saying, “I want a comedy-costume too, dammit!” and then him prancing into Al Pacino’s office wearing a star-spangled jumpsuit and a pair false-teeth. It’s the movie equivalent of a “!”. You see it, you smile, you think for a second “does that work?”, and then you move on.
George Clooney doesn’t want you to remember Ocean’s Thirteen forever. And we can cry and say all movies should aspire to something greater than a nice opening weekend, that movies should only use movie stars to get us through the door, not make movie stars the raison d’être for movies, but… Isn’t crying over movies the reason reviewers aren’t the stars?
Part of the fun of Ocean’s Thirteen is knowing that the people who made it care only on a professional-level how it turns out. They have better things to do than worry about plot or whether anything is feasible. And I hear you ask: how is it different then – from Pirates of the Caribbean? Because that movie is made-to-order, a box-ticker, net-profit at its heart. And true, I say. They are alike. As are all sequels. But Ocean’s Thirteen wins because it doesn’t shout at you. It knows you know who Zapata is and that your kid brother doesn’t. It’s not going to raise its voice (and lower its tone) to get the kids interested.
The difference is age, I suppose. Three-quels are fleeting, but star-gazing is timeless.