In a year heavy with noble spandexed heroes fighting crime, it feels like about time someone committed one — not for some dark cause or galactic domination but for kicks and mad money, and just because they can. Ocean’s 8’s girls-just-wanna-have-grand-larceny conceit is the kind of starry, high-gloss goof the summer movie season was made for, even if it feels lightweight by the already zero-gravity standards of the genre.
Eleven years after the Ocean’s trilogy’s last testosterone-spritzed outing — all sprung, of course, from the iconic 1960 original — Sandra Bullock stars in a loose lady-centric sequel as Debbie Ocean, incarcerated sister to George Clooney’s late, lamented Danny. (Like Wallendas fly or Kennedys run for office, Oceans steal; it’s what they do.) As the movie opens, Debbie has just wrapped up a five-year sentence by promising the parole board that all she wants on the outside is a quiet, simple life. In reality, she’s already planning an elaborate heist at the Met Gala — New York’s annual celebration of fame, fashion, and social Darwinism — that will net her a dazzling Cartier necklace direct from the neck of high-strung starlet Daphne Kluger (Anne Hathaway).
To pull it off, naturally, she’ll need a crew: The Pitt to her Clooney is Lou (Cate Blanchett), an old partner in petty crime now running half-hearted nightclub scams. Helena Bonham Carter’s Rose, a faded Irish couturier desperate for cash and career redemption, provides the entrée to Daphne; Rihanna’s spliff-smoking hacker Nine Ball and Awkwafina’s laconic street hustler Constance bring tech support and millennial wisdom. Amita (Mindy Kaling) is the diamond expert, and sticky-fingered housewife Tammy (Sarah Paulson) has a face made for swindling.
Director Gary Ross (Seabiscuit, The Hunger Games) keeps it all moving with brisk, winking efficiency, and everything in the frame gleams: jewels, cheekbones, even Brooklyn’s bleak industrial waterfront. Rarely have so many trench coats been worn so insouciantly; Blanchett’s bangs alone deserve their own sonnet. Hathaway’s send-up of brittle, actressy narcissism is also a sly highlight, especially in context; when famous faces (Serena Williams, Katie Holmes, James Corden) drop in, it’s fifty-fifty whether they’re playing themselves or an actual part.
Too often, though, the script feels like it’s coasting where it should crackle and snap. The energy of Steven Soderbergh’s 2001 Eleven — all that Rat Pack visual jazz and ring-a-ding-ding dialogue — is mostly set aside here for glossy scene-setting and the mechanics of plot. Rare character moments, like Constance patiently explaining Tinder to Amita, feel like a tease for the fuller, sharper story about friendship and female dynamics it could have been. Instead, Ocean’s mostly plays its crooked ladies straight: breezy, felonious, and friction-free. B