Ocean’s Thirteen (2007) — A fine return to funny form

“You shook Sinatra’s hand. You should know better.”

Justin’s rating: Aces.

Justin’s review: We here at Mutant Reviewers think that other people need to step off and stop telling us when and how we can enjoy a movie. Seriously, man. Whether it be a “low-brow” comedy that honestly makes us laugh, a scary-as-anything horror movie that gave us all the bejeebees, a super-cheesy romance that plucks heartstrings while maintaining a predictable plot, or a film from the oeuvre of Adam Sandler — these so-called “critic proof” films might not be overflowing with gorgeous cinematography, homages to black and white films from the 1930s, or nominees for the Academy Awards of Backpatting, but they’re all plain fun movies.

That’s what Ocean’s Thirteen is: a plain fun movie. It’s there to look slick, to entertain, to keep you guessing for a bit, and to have you smile — and nothing more. Sure, while fat cat critics harrumph themselves from on top of piles of studio swag about how this just isn’t as good as some foreign flick that your kind never heard of, it’s just going on to do what it does best. No serious critic is going to put Ocean’s Thirteen on their best-of lists come December, but I guarantee you that there will be more copies of this slick flick in people’s homes than Paris, Je T’aime.

When last we left Daniel Ocean and his intrepid crew of high fashion criminals, they were ticking me off big time. Somehow they thought that if they substituted sense for style, comedy for long stares, and holograms for casino chips, they were moving in a bold new direction. They were not. And if your bold new direction doesn’t work, then by George and his Merry Men, you better return to what worked in your next film before any more interesting experiments.

Ergo, Ocean’s Thirteen brings us back to the common ground of Ocean’s Eleven, almost to the point of copyright infringement. Yes, it’s another casino heist in Vegas; yes, the bad guy is a smarmy casino owner; yes, there’s enough twists and turns to make a good-sized maze out of it all… but at the same time, it’s a different movie.

This time, poor Reuben (Elliot Gould) is cheated out of his share of a casino hotel by evil Willy Bank (Al Pacino, who knows more about giving intense speeches while never moving his eyes or raising his voice than you’ll ever learn), and ends up in the hospital with a heart attack. This time, it’s a little more personal than the other times for some reason, and the Ocean gang declares that Bank will go down, and down hard. How they do it is the just-plain-fun I mentioned earlier.

Each of the cast steps up and gets their ensemble spotlight. The crowd favorites were easily Casey Affleck and Scott Caan as the bickering brothers who somehow spark a revolution in Mexico (there’s a horrible moustache involved — don’t ask). Sure, some guys got more press than others (with Julia Roberts and Catherine Zeta-Jones strangely absent), but at no point did George Clooney or Brad Pitt come across as trying to hog screen time. This is group of actors who fall back into their roles with practiced ease, and sometimes the little moments — the glances, the off-hand remarks — are more priceless than the big bangs.

My only quibble, and perhaps a major one at that, is that Banks himself is clearly outgunned from the first scene of the movie. For all of his initial posturing, he’s nowhere near as fierce or clever as the villains of the previous two flicks, and by the end, he’s just kind of a depressed schmoe that all of the schoolground bullies run circles around. I kept expecting him to have some hidden tricks up his own sleeve, but nothing doing.

Still, there’s plenty of tense moments, hilarious moments, and clever moments — and that’s all I really needed to keep a goofy smile on my face. Here’s to lucky thirteen!

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